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Is Iran Truly Done Avenging The Death Of General Soleimani?

Although the risk of full-scale war with Iran has significantly diminished, there are several other tools Iran could use against the U.S.

If Iran has come to play second fiddle to U.S. President Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ we may do well to remember that in the face of increased pressure at home and an inherent need to consolidate its military regional outposts following General Qassem Soleimani’s death, the Islamic Republic is unlikely to have given up on its threats of further retaliation.

And though the risk of a full-scale war seems low, we would be foolish to think that Washington and Tehran will resume relations as per the status quo ante Soleimani – the expression of Iran’s military, the general was much too central to Iran’s plans for the Middle East for the country’s leadership to move on from America’s affront without envisioning equalization.

If Iran’s decision to unfurl the red flag over the holy mosque of Jamkaran – a call for global war against the enemies of God according to Shia Islam tradition, is anything to go by, Ayatollah Khamenei’s decision to srike at U.S. military interests in neighboring Iraq earlier this January is but the first salvo of a comprehensive plan of attack. 

Let’s face it, now that the United States has officially entered the presidential race, opportunities for destabilization are much greater.

And while it is unlikely the United States and Iran will directly cross swords – any such frontal attack will be devastating for both nations, notwithstanding the upheaval it would generate globally as nations would be dragged into the fray, Tehran’s ability to do harm is not to be discounted. Sabotage efforts against Saudi Arabia oil facilities, military aggression by regional proxies, cyber attacks, nuclear proliferation and other niceties may soon become our daily bread, courtesy of one myopic American president.

It serves the purpose of this article to note here that President Trump’s initial claims that the U.S. did not suffer any serious casualties during Iran’s missile strike in Iraq on January 8 against the U.S. military in response to General Soleimai’s death proved in fact to be grossly inaccurate. What was described a few weeks ago as inconsequential has been anything but. 

In a statement released last Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Thomas Campbell said that 31 of the injured were treated in Iraq and had returned to duty, including those most recently diagnosed.

Eighteen others were sent to Germany for further evaluation and treatment, the spokesman said, while another was sent to Kuwait and had returned to duty.

Speaking last week about his initial statement that no troops had been injured in the Iranian missile strike on the Ain al-Asad base, President Trump said: “I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it’s not very serious.”

We could soon learn that Iran is in fact rather serious in its quest for revenge, even more so now that such pursuit could prove a lifeline to the regime.

Faced with increased pressure at home, the Islamic Republic may choose to redirect public anger against its designated enemy: the United States, and thus prop up, even if only for a short while, support at home, as we witness in the days following Gen. Soleimani’s death. With little room left to breathe and mounting frustration over high unemployment and a bleak economic future Iran’s ruling elite might hedge its bets on a war to better secure its longevity in power.

One could actually argue that much of Iran’s revolutionary success rests with Saddam Hussein’s decision to breach its military defenses. With Iraq’s cannons pointing at its villages and cities Iranians rallied en masses around Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, vowing to fight for the homeland to the last. War in Iran has a way of inspiring unwavering loyalty.

In truth Iran not only can afford to escalate, but it has all the incentives to do so, initially through proxies and asymmetric warfare, to avoid provoking an immediate U.S. reaction. An attempted attack on Aramco this week plays directly within this logic of retaliation and convenient deniability.

Yemen’s Houthi fighters, who have expressed their support and allegiance to the Islamic Republic claimed on Wednesday (Jan. 29) that they launched attacks with missiles and drones on Saudi Aramco in the kingdom’s southern Jazan region. 

Although the attack was thwarted by Saudi Arabia’s air defense system, further risk to the integrity of the kingdom’s oil facilities remain real and immediate, notwithstanding the impact this will carry on world markets. 

Though the U.S. is less dependent on foreign oil than in the past, even a modest price spike could trigger a broader downturn or recession, as happened in 1990. While an oil-price shock would boost U.S. energy producers’ profits, the benefits would be outweighed by the costs to U.S. oil consumers (both households and firms). Needless to say that world economies would also feel the pinch, potentially triggering a dangerous domino effect. Overall, U.S. private spending and growth would slow, as would growth in all of the major net-oil-importing economies, including Japan, China, India, South Korea, Turkey, and most European countries. 

According to an estimate by JP Morgan, a conflict that blocked the Strait of Hormuz for six months could drive up oil prices by 126%, to more than $150 per barrel, setting the stage for a severe global recession. And even a more limited disruption — such as a one-month blockade — could push the price up to $80 per barrel.

Oil is not Iran’s only weapon. Cyber attacks may soon prove to be a staple of Tehran’s retaliatory repertoire.

Days after Gen. Soleimani’s death, U.S. officials advised businesses and infrastructure operators to maintain a high alert. Since early January the Department of Homeland Security has issued numerous warnings, and even updated the nation’s terror advisory system with a bulletin addressing the risk of Iranian cyberattacks. 

In an interview with CNN network security company Cloudflare confirmed that  Iran-based attempts to hack federal, state and local government websites jumped 50% since the drone strike  and has continued to accelerate ever since. 

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince called the increase “statistically significant.”

While it is impossible to accurately foretell of Iran’s true intentions towards the United States and its regional allies, it is evident that Tehran’s vengeance will come in a succession of waves – each aimed at weakening and destabilizing America’s defenses and international standing.


Catherine Perez-Shakdam

Catherine is a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and a former consultant to the UN Security Council on Yemen. Her work has been published in the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, the Daily Express, Epoch Times and countless other media.

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