Why the Death of Iranian Commander Soleimani Won't Mean World War III

(Politico) Ray Takeyh - After years of striding across the Middle East seemingly in command of the region, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran's Quds Brigade, was finally killed by American airstrikes early Friday. History will not mourn one of the great mass murderers of our time who was responsible for scores of dead, mostly Arab and American. In the past decade, Soleimani turned terrorism into an effective instrument of Iran's imperial expansion by marshaling a transnational Shia expeditionary force that has prevailed in conflicts across the Middle East. His death will be a blow to the Iranian theocracy but could very likely temper the clerical oligarchs, who tend to retreat in the face of American determination. As Soleimani began expanding Iran's imperial frontiers, he understood that Persians would not be willing to die in distant battlefields for the sake of Arabs, so he focused on recruiting Arabs and Afghans as an auxiliary force. In Iraq, that meant killing and maiming nearly 1,000 American service members. In Syria, that meant enabling President Assad's killing machine. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is a cagey leader who did not become one of the longest serving rulers in the Middle East by impetuously going to war with America. The clerical oligarchs respect American determination and understand the imbalance between a superpower and a struggling regional actor. We should not expect Iran to take on a president who just ordered the killing of one of their famed commanders. When Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency, Iran hastily released the American diplomats it had held hostage for 444 days. When George W. Bush's shock and awe campaign quickly displaced the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Iran responded by suspending its nuclear program. The Iranian-born writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

2020-01-06 00:00:00

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