Jan 3, 2020

The next move on Iran

Photos: AP (3); Reuters (U.S. soldiers guard Baghdad embassy)

For all the prior warnings and bluster, it's hard to think of a more precarious period of the Trump presidency than this very moment.

Why it matters: The surprise of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani's killing has left the world on edge.

  • In Tehran, the Ayatollah threatened a "forceful revenge."
  • In Baghdad, the U.S. government urged Americans to flee the country as Iraqi lawmakers worked on legislation asking U.S. troops to leave.
  • In Fort Bragg, North Carolina, roughly 3,500 members of the 82nd Airborne prepared to deploy to Kuwait.
  • In Florida, President Trump said he does not want regime change and "we did not take action to start a war."
  • And in Washington, some Democrats forcefully opposed further action, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed "dozens if not hundreds of American lives" were at "imminent" risk. He did not provide specific evidence.

Between the lines: A good deal of the tension comes from the range of possible outcomes.

  • "Iranians are the masters of striking soft targets ... In the past few years, they have honed an ability to cause low-level chaos," the N.Y. Times reports.

Among the options, per the AP:

  • Cyberattacks like the one that hit U.S. banks prior to the Iran Deal.
  • Targeting America's Gulf allies, especially Saudi Arabia.
  • Using proxies in Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
  • Nothing: Previous threats for retaliation, like after a Hezbollah commander was killed in 2008, passed without a major response.

What's next: The White House is preparing to present partners and allies with intelligence on the “imminent threat” it says prompted this attack, Kirsten Fontenrose, who served on the National Security Council earlier in the Trump administration, said on an Atlantic Council conference call.

  • The National Security Council is working to coordinate next steps, while the State Department consults with allies on what Iranian responses are acceptable, and what they’re willing to do to help the U.S. push back if necessary, Axios world editor Dave Lawler reports.

Go deeper... Trump on killing Soleimani: "We did not take action to start a war"

Go deeper

The latest: Iran general who replaced Soleimani vows revenge for death

Photo: Mohammed Sawaf/AFP via Getty Images

Iran's new top commander Esmail Ghaani, who replaced Gen. Qasem Soleimani after he died in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq, pledged during a televised address Monday to avenge the general's killing, AP reports.

The latest: Ghaani‘s declaration that God "has promised to get his revenge" and that "certainly actions will be taken" came hours after Iran said it would no longer abide by limits on its uranium enrichment and Iraq's parliament voted to call on the Iraqi government to expel U.S. troops from the country over Friday's airstrike.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 6, 2020

Pompeo says Soleimani strike disrupted "imminent" attack

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN's "New Day" on Friday that the U.S. strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was meant to disrupt an "imminent" attack against Americans in the Middle East.

"It was the time to take this action so that we could disrupt this plot, deter further aggression from Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian regime — as well as to attempt to de-escalate the situation. The risk of doing nothing was enormous. The intelligence community made that assessment, and President Trump acted decisively last night."
Go deeperArrowJan 3, 2020

U.S. kills top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani

Soleimani (center). Photo: Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

One of the Iranian regime's most powerful figures has been killed in a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad's international airport, the Pentagon has confirmed.

Why it matters: Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the elite Quds force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was as revered by Iran's proxies and supporters across the region as he was reviled by Iran's foes, who considered him the mastermind of state-sponsored terrorism.

Go deeperArrowJan 3, 2020