Two years ago yesterday, an American missile ended the life of Qassem Suleimani, the Iranian generalissimo who directed the expeditionary arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and coordinated the activities of a formidable network of militias and terrorist groups throughout the Middle East. While the strike on Suleimani was a response to a series of attacks on U.S. troops and U.S. allies in the previous year, Suleimani had been fighting the American military in Iraq, and terrorizing the country’s civilians, since 2003. Eli Lake considers some of the repercussions of his death:
After the Suleimani strike, Iran’s militias continued probing attacks on U.S. positions in Iraq, while Iran’s scientists continued to install more advanced centrifuges in its nuclear facilities. But Iran stopped menacing commercial ships, and U.S. embassies did not face more mobs. And while some of this can be explained by the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump’s show of force was also a factor.
While President Biden has eased economic pressure on Iran and opened negotiations, he also responded to an attack on American positions by Iran-backed guerrillas with a missile strike, showing that he too is not afraid to use force. But, Lake explains, not all his decisions have been so tough-minded:
Most troubling, . . . the U.S. has let it be known that it does not approve of Israeli intelligence operations against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Some administration officials doubt the efficacy of Israel’s sabotage and assassinations inside Iran, according to the New York Times, fearing that they provide an incentive for Iran to build back its nuclear program better.
This is the wrong message. Not only does it risk alienating America’s most important ally against Iran, . . . it also risks more provocations from Iran: if the regime’s leaders believe they face only economic consequences for their predations, then they will continue to test America’s resolve.