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Iran’s retaliation is not over, the missile attacks on US is just the beginning – Hassan Ahmadian

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On January 3, US President Donald Trump announced triumphantly the killing of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani. Having assassinated the equivalent of a member of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Trump claimed he did not want war. His words rang hollow in Tehran where this brazen attack was seen as an act of exactly that.

As many have noted so far, the assassination was carried out to help Trump’s struggling re-election campaign. This strategy could have worked if Iran was a static player on the chessboard.

But it is not and depending on how it chooses to retaliate and the course of action it adopts vis-a-vis the US in the coming months and years, it could determine Trump’s political fate. This episode along with other impulsive actions by the president will negatively affect the United States‘s regional position and its global role more broadly.

Only hours after the assassination, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei stated that “a harsh revenge awaits the criminal killers”. And after a meeting headed for the first time by him, Iran’s supreme national security council issued a statement saying “the US regime will be responsible for all the consequences”. If Trump expected Tehran to swallow the pain, he obviously miscalculated.

Soleimani was by far the most popular official figure in Iran; according to a 2019 poll, 82 percent of Iranians viewed him favourably. His assassination brought the nation together and made the need for revenge that more urgent. Beyond taking vengeance, a gradual shift in Iran’s strategic conduct vis-a-vis the US and its client states in the region is expected – one that will be less tolerant of the US presence.

Soleimani rose to prominence from the lowest ranks in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the 1980s and fought all of Iran’s adversaries beginning with the Baathist Regime in the Iran-Iraq war all the way to ISIL (ISIS).

He was the architect of Iran’s “forward deterrence” in the region that rendered US anti-Iran efforts feckless and helped defeat ISIL. Soleimani’s strategic vision was widely seen as essential to Iran’s defence. Assassinating him, therefore, targeted first and foremost Iran’s national security in the eyes of both Iranian officials and the Iranian public.

Hours after the assassination, Soleimani’s deputy, Esmail Qaani, was appointed the new commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force. The move was meant to refute speculations about a vacuum left behind by Soleimani but also to emphasise the continuation of Iran’s regional strategy of “forward deterrence”.

After the assassination, the Iranian leadership started debating when, where and how rather than whether or not to retaliate. Tehran is compelled to respond as its inaction would render its regional deterrence irrelevant, weaken “the axis of resistance” – the alliance of like-minded Middle Eastern states and political-military movements allied with Iran – and encourage the US’s escalation.

Iran’s geographic position, regional alliance and military capabilities, demonstrated recently in the downing of the sophisticated US spy drone in November and the targeting of ISIL positions in eastern Syria in 2016-17, gives it a wide range of options to respond.

The barrage of missiles which hit US bases in Iraq on January 8 was just the beginning – just a “slap” according to the Iranian Supreme Leader – and it seems to have been meant as a quick response to satisfy the public’s cry for revenge. It fell short of being proportional to the assassination of Soleimani, which means one should expect more to come.

Iran is not likely to resort to rash action in the face of US escalation. It will most likely sleep on its options for quite some time before launching its response which will be marked by the traditional gradualism and steadiness of its regional conduct. Re-establishing deterrence on a new level would be the main objective of Iran’s new course of action vis-a-vis the US escalation.

Though varied, Iran’s options are all hard choices that can lead to further escalation. The US backing down after the January 8 missile attacks on its positions in Iraq decreased this possibility for now, but in the future, a tit-for-tat can easily spiral into a confrontation

Iran’s main options include an increase in asymmetric warfare on an unprecedented scale to bleed the US in the region. Feeling attacked in Baghdad, the entire axis of resistance can be engaged in such a scenario.

Tehran might also resort to a devastating attack on one of the US’s client states such as Israel – as alluded to in the IRGC statement after the missile attacks in Iraq – that diminishes any sort of deterrence Washington thought the assassination could establish.

Other Iranian options include cyberattacks and indirect attacks on US assets and forces in the region.

Tehran knows that continuing domestic and international debates on Trump’s foreign policy misconduct during this time can increase internal pressure on him, which it hopes to take advantage of.

It will try to show the American public, Trump’s rivals within the US as well as its clients in the Middle East that the assassination will not in any way serve US interests or those of its allies. In doing so, Tehran will be pushing Trump into the hard place he tried to put Iran in: A retaliation would work against his campaign promise of pulling out of wars, while inaction would harm his reputation.

With Trump ordering the assassination as a way to show his decisiveness after being criticised for inaction against Iran’s downing of the US spy drone, Iran’s new course of action is likely to focus on hurting his reputation. Over the course of this year, this can affect his re-election campaign or taint his second term.

Soleimani’s assassination also precluded any chance for a diplomatic win in the Middle East for the Trump administration.

In 2018, Trump killed the Iranian moderates’ momentum by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and by reimposing sanctions. He has now killed the prospect for any future negotiations under his administration.

Iran has already shown signs it is willing to resurrect its nuclear programme. Declaring Iran’s fifth step in reducing its Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action commitments, President Hassan Rouhani announced Tehran’s move beyond many of its restrictions.

With public demand for revenge, Iranian missile attacks on US positions in Iraq and urgent geopolitical considerations Iran has to address, it is hard to imagine the re-start of negotiation with the US in the years to come.

Author: Hassan Ahmadian is Assistant Professor of Political Sciences at the University of Tehran.

Source: Al Jazeera

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Foreign News

Breaking: Billionaires Bill Gates and wife Melinda to get divorced after 27 years – ghanapublisher.com

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In a message on the Microsoft founder’s Twitter account, the couple said they made the decision after “a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship”.

Gates, the fourth richest man in the world with a net worth of $130bn, married Melinda in January 1994.

“Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives,” they said.

“We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.

“We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.

The couple, who married on a golf course on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, have three children together – Jennifer, Rory and Phoebe.

They live in an earth-sheltered mansion in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington in Medina, Washington.

 

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Prince Philip’s Funeral In Photos, See the only 30 attendants due to Coronavirus

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The British royal family gathered Saturday for the funeral service of Prince Philip inside St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle, the first time they have appeared together in public in more than a year.

Pall bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales,

The funeral of Prince Philip, who died last week at age 99, was closed to the public and limited to just 30 people due to coronavirus-related restrictions.

Queen Elizabeth II, who was married to the Duke of Edinburgh for more than 73 years, sat alone during the service, donning a black face mask.

Prince Harry returned home for the services, making his first trip back to Windsor Castle since he and his wife, Meghan Markle, stepped away from the royal family in early 2020.

Queen Elizabeth II, who is will celebrate her 95th birthday next week, sat by herself in the front pew on Saturday due to Covid-19 concerns.

 

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, holds back tears during a ceremonial procession to St. George's Chapel.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, holds back tears during a ceremonial procession to St. George’s Chapel.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and his wife, Meghan Markle, posted a tribute to Philip on their website last week.

Prior to his passing, Prince Philip helped design the Land Rover that carried his coffin

Philip’s four children and some of his grandchildren (including William and Harry) walked in a procession behind his coffin as it was driven to St George’s Chapel.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was reportedly wearing a four-strand pearl necklace from the queen’s personal collection

More than 700 members of the Armed Forces were called to honor the Duke of Edinburgh at his funeral.

Tangent:

Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle, did not attend the services. Markle, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, was reportedly advised by her doctor to remain in California.

Crucial Quote:

“We have been inspired by his unwavering loyalty to our queen, by his service to the nation and the Commonwealth, by his courage, fortitude and faith,” Rev. David Conner, Dean of Windsor, said during Saturday’s funeral service. “Our lives have been enriched through the challenges that he has set us, the encouragement that he has given us, his kindness, humor and humanity.”

Big Number:

100. Philip was mere weeks away from celebrating his 100th birthday when he died peacefully at home last Friday.

 

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Prince Philip’s funeral: William and Harry Set drama at the ceremony

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The pair were seen leaving the service at Windsor Castle together along with the Duchess of Cambridge.

There has been limited contact between the brothers since Harry and his wife Meghan filmed a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey last month.

Harry had referenced reports that his relationship with his brother was strained, saying “the relationship is space at the moment” and that “time heals all things, hopefully”.

In 2019, when asked about an alleged rift with William, Harry said he loved his brother dearly but they were “on different paths” and have “good days” and “bad days”.

At their grandfather’s funeral, the brothers were sat opposite each other, with William in a COVID bubble with his wife Kate and Harry sat alone.

The Duchess of Sussex, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, did not fly over from the US with Harry on the medical advice of her doctor.

Prince Harry has since been self-isolating at Frogmore Cottage after arriving back in the UK.

The funeral is the first time the Duke of Sussex has been seen publicly with the Royal Family following the bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.

The Duke of Cambridge (left) and the Duke of Sussex (centre) follow the coffin of their grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, as it passes through the Parade Ground, during his funeral at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Picture date: Saturday April 17, 2021.

The interview saw Harry and Meghan accuse an unnamed member of the family of making racist remarks about their son Archie before he was born, and accuse the institution of failing to support the duchess.

Days later, Prince William defended the Royal Family, saying they were “very much not a racist family”.

Before the funeral service, the brothers had walked in a procession within the grounds of Windsor Castle, either side of their cousin Peter Phillips.

Later, Harry was sat 10 seats away from his grandmother, the Queen, who was sitting alone at the front of the quire, closest to the altar.

Dressed in a face mask and in sombre black, the monarch’s arrival at the ceremony was the first time she had been officially seen in public since the Duke of Edinburgh died eight days ago.

The congregation at Philip’s funeral was limited to just 30 people due to COVID-19 restrictions.

A small group of Philip’s close family and friends attended the televised funeral service, which began with a national minute’s silence at 3pm.

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