Three years after he came to power, the president of the first world power will have to manage his first major foreign policy crisis in a complicated context: Donald Trump faces the opening of a impeachment process against him, the famous impeachment, and an electoral campaign that is anticipated very aggressive
Attacking and killing Iran's second most powerful official – Major General Qasem Soleimani, who for two decades led Iran's most fearsome and ruthless military unit, the Quds Force -, boils a slow-boiling conflict in Tehran.
A note from the New York Times NYT service states that it is the most risky move made by the United States in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And an AFP office stresses that the US president's decision is of "unpredictable consequences. ".RELATED
MANDEL NGAN / AFP
Washington needed to reestablish its deterrent power at the beginning of this third decade of the 21st century – when humanity could find other ways of relating and understanding – and let the Iranian leadership know that the missiles fired at ships in the Persian Gulf, the attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities months ago and those inside Iraq who took the life of an American contractor, were not going to be left unanswered.
Now Iraq fears "a devastating war," Iran has already promised revenge "at the right time and place," and the Pentagon announced the deployment of between 3,000 and 3,500 additional US troops in the Gulf. The drums of war already rumble.
Charles Lister, from the Middle East Institute, consulted by NYT, notes that "with Soleimani dead, war is coming, that seems true, the only questions are where, in what way and when."
A paragraph: next to the facts themselves, of an overwhelming technology and efficiency – the use of drones to fly to such a powerful man at the Baghdad airport, the Iraqi capital – that promises unknown fury and fears of ungrateful remembrance, that language collides of "order to kill" of the presidential order, which is deployed without any anesthesia on social networks. Objective accomplished
Who was Soleimani?
Tired and discreet, Soleimani achieved recognition very soon. At 30, he was already a division commander, after his performance during the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s.
But even more noticeable and recent was his role in the intense conflict against the Islamic State, from which Tehran reinforced its influence in the troubled region.
Soleimani is credited with defining the strategy that helped President Bashar al-Assad to change the course of the war against rebel forces in Syria, while taking control of Shiite militias in Iraq, who received support and training from Iran, as recorded by a BBC World note.
The head of US diplomacy, Mike Pompeo, justified Friday the attack on Commander Soleimani, because he planned an imminent action that threatened the lives of hundreds of Americans.
"I was actively plotting in the region to take action, an important action, as he described it, that would have put dozens, if not hundreds of American lives in danger," Pompeo told CNN. "We know it was imminent," he added without giving further details of that alleged planned operation. Something roasted like weapons of mass destruction?
The United States, the diplomatic official said, is "committed, however, to the de-escalation." The question is whether it will be possible.
"Bigger than ever"
Donald Trump has repeatedly repeated his determination to withdraw from the cauldron of the Middle East. His decision to attack and kill Soleimani – what should have been done "many years ago," he said – places his presidency, lasting one or five years, at the center of events. The revenge that the supreme leader of Iran, Ayolata Ali Khamenei, prophesied can be long. Very long.
For Richard Hass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations group of experts, it would be "ironic, as well as tragic and dangerous" that the president who wanted to reduce the US footprint in the Middle East "has started a dynamic that will lead to that situation "at a time when the country already faces challenges with" China, North Korea or Russia ".
ANWAR AMRO / AFP
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who spent his life studying the Middle East, and is now at the Brookings Institution, said: "The administration is leading the United States to another war in the Middle East, bigger than ever."
However, it may not be a conventional war in any sense, since the advantage of the Iranians is in an asymmetric conflict.
Their history suggests that they will not face the United States frontally, but they will attack soft targets, starting in Iraq, but only limited to that country. In recent years, they have perfected the ability to cause low-level chaos, and have left no doubt th at they want to be able to reach the United States.
For now, they can't, at least in traditional ways.
But they have tried terrorism, including a failed attempt nine years ago to kill a Saudi ambassador in Washington, and Thursday night, the Department of Homeland Security sent reminders of Iran's past and current efforts to attack the United States in The cyberspace. So far, that has been limited to gaps in US banks and scrutiny of dams and other critical infrastructure, but so far they have not shown that they have the skills of the Russians or the Chinese.
That is why his first escalation could well be in Iraq, where they support the pro-Iranian militias. It was only a few weeks ago when people took to the streets of Iraq to protest Iranian, non-American interference in their politics. Still, there are soft targets throughout the region, as the attacks on Saudi oil facilities showed.
Former Democratic and Republican administrations Aaron David Miller observes a "potentially terrifying" mix in the coincidence of the attack with the internal situation facing Trump in his own country, with the impeachment trial in sight. "It demands prudent, sensible decisions, and a stable and firm mandate," he said.
But the first reactions of the Republican billionaire, who defends his way of acting "by instinct", did not reassure those who care about their improvisations on complex geopolitical issues.
True to his iconoclastic and provocative communication style, Thursday night, after the announcement of Soleimani's death, he tweeted the image of an American flag without a word.
From his luxurious Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, where he spends his vacation, Trump added an ambiguous phrase on Twitter on Friday: "Iran has never won a war, but never lost a negotiation."
For former US diplomat Nicholas Burns, a professor at Harvard, the murder of Soleimani was legitimate if the Iranian general really foresaw attacks on US installations. "But did Trump anticipate the next 15 moves on the chess board?" He asks.
Launch a war
Most Republican congressmen praised the "bravery" of the president, but the Democratic opposition showed concern.
"A flag is not a strategy," said Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN during the presidency of Trump's predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama. "Trump is surrounded by chupamedias (after having fired everyone who was against him) (…) This could degenerate very quickly."
Among the different hypotheses considered by analysts, that of a total withdrawal of US troops from Iraq is gaining more and more strength. Trump could take advantage of threats against the Americans and Baghdad's statements to justify his decision, while threatening to hit Iran again from afar.
"This would allow him to wink at his electoral base by showing firmness while carrying out a withdrawal," says Colin Kahl, an expert at Stanford University and a former Obama adviser.
The political motivations of the US president to order the death of the Iranian general remain to be known.
Trump himself mentioned, almost a decade ago, how tempting it would be for a president to launch a conflict with Tehran before an election. He did it to criticize Obama.
"To be re-elected, Barack Obama will launch a war against Iran," he tweeted in 2011, when he had not yet begun his political career but was a fierce critic of the Democratic leader.
(With information from the New York Times, AFP service)
Friday to Friday
Friday, December 27
US airstrikes responded to more than 30 rockets launched from an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk, killing an American contractor and injuring four US military and two Iraqis. US officials blamed an Iran-backed militia, Kataib Hezbollah, who denied responsibility.
Sunday, December 29
The embassy assault was in response to US airstrikes that killed 24 members of an Iran-backed militia at bases in Iraq and Syria over the weekend.
Iran-backed militias represent a powerful faction in Iraq, which controls a large block in Parliament. As the Trump administration imposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran, militias have increasingly attacked US targets.
Tuesday, December 31
Members of the Iranian militia marched to the US embassy, effectively locked US diplomats inside for more than 24 hours and burned the embassy reception area. President Trump blamed Iran for organizing the protest.
Friday, January 3
An American attack with drones hit two cars carrying Soleimani and several officials with militias backed by Iran as they left Baghdad International Airport. Soleimani was a powerful figure in charge of the Iranian intelligence gathering and was close to the supreme leader of Iran.