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On the night of Thursday, January 2 U.S. time, an American drone strike killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Major General Qassem Soleimani, who commanded the Middle Eastern nation’s Quds Force and was seen as the country’s second-most powerful person. After the U.S. and Iran inched toward war in the first half of 2019 before slowly backing away from it, the assassination of such a high-ranking Iranian figure exponentially increased tensions between the two nations. But will the U.S. actually go to war with Iran? Below, learn more about the possibility of war, all that has happened since Soleimani’s killing, and more.
What are the chances of a U.S.-Iran war?
In the immediate aftermath of Maj. Gen. Soleimani’s killing, the widely trusted international consulting firm Eurasia Group stated that the probability of a conflict between the U.S. and Iran had increased to 40 percent. Maj. Gen. Soleimani’s killing was, at the time, only the latest event in a series of escalations between the two nations, with early 2019 tensions ratcheting back up in December 2019 after a rapid succession of minor events.
The killing of a prominent leader, though, is a much bolder move than any of the actions either nation took against the other in December. It caused Iran to promise swift and intense revenge against the U.S., a statement to which President Trump responded in kind, saying he would retaliate with strikes on as many as 52 Iranian sites. Were Trump to target Iranian cultural sites as he suggested he might, this action would be considered an international war crime.
What has happened since the killing of Maj. Gen. Soleimani?
Shortly after the killing of Maj. Gen. Soleimani, the government of Iraq – where U.S. drones targeted and killed Soleimani – voted in favor of American troops exiting the country. President Trump has thus far disobeyed this order, further increasing tensions.
On January 8, Iran took its first retaliatory actions against the U.S., launching several missiles at Iraqi bases currently home to U.S. soldiers. At the moment, no deaths have been reported, and some experts believe that Iran targeted sites not populated by soldiers, thereby offering a warning shot rather than a full-on attack.
Should Iran choose to launch full-scale attacks intended to kill U.S. troops and civilians, it could easily do so. According to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkani, the nation has considered as many as 13 revenge scenarios, of which Shamkani claimed even the least deadly would be disastrous for the U.S. Given President Trump’s hawkish rhetoric in the wake of the Soleimani killing, it can be assumed that any Iranian actions leading to U.S. casualties would be met with an equally forceful response.
What is the U.S. government doing to prevent war?
According to the U.S. Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, the Trump administration is not looking to start a war with Iran. However, since Trump’s comments seem to indicate an interest in warfare, both the Senate and the House have introduced resolutions limiting Trump’s war-making powers. Both congressional chambers hope to bring these resolutions to a vote soon.
What threats do people living in the U.S. face?
Although many experts agree that a U.S.-Iran war would be fought in the Middle East rather than on American soil, some have noted that Iran’s cyber experts could easily hack into U.S. infrastructure and, among other possibilities, shut down the power grid. Additionally, if Iran’s ally Russia were to step in and defend it, then in an extreme scenario, the U.S.-Iran war could escalate into a potentially nuclear World War III. There is no good outcome for U.S. citizens in a U.S.-Iran war – the question is just how bad the outcome will be.