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Will Iran drive the US out of the Middle East?

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One year after Qasem Soleimani’s death, the Iranians continue to hold a grudge against the US. And although the Persian country responded to the assassination with missile attacks against the US bases in Iraq, the real answer is yet to come, says Mohamed Marandi, a political analyst at the University of Tehran.

“The Iranians are angry today, as they were a year ago when he was assassinated,” the analyst said.

Soleimani’s achievements were so numerous and so important that some analysts opined that Iran could never recover from his assassination. But Marandi commented that his country “does not depend on individuals.”

“Iran has structures and institutions, we have very competent and trained people, who know what they are doing, and nothing will change in Iran, not even after [a general of this magnitude] has left,” Marandi said.

Following Soleimani’s assassination, Iran appointed Esmail Ghaani commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who vowed to continue the path of his predecessor. 

Revenge is yet to come

That path also foresees a revenge directed at those who shed the blood of the Iranian high commander.

Shortly after Soleimani’s assassination, Iran bombed US-used military installations in Iraq, including the Ain al Asad base in Al Anbar province (west), and another in Erbil (north).

At the time, President Donald Trump claimed that the damage from the Iranian attacks was minimal. However, the Martyr Soleimani operation exposed the vulnerability of the United States, according to Marandi.

“All our missiles hit their targets and the damage was greater. (…) But our final answer will be that the Americans will be expelled from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan,” Marandi said.

In a way, the US is already leaving the region. In 2019, Trump announced the withdrawal of some US troops from Syria and in September 2020, Washington declared that it would reduce the number of its military personnel in Iraq. In November, another report suggested that the US would withdraw 2,500 troops from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The withdrawal could mean that Washington is not interested in a further escalation of tensions and Marandi said that the US also realizes that “Iran is too powerful an actor that cannot be defeated in a conventional war.”

“Iran is not like Iraq or Afghanistan. It is a very powerful country and the Americans know it,” the expert explained.

Better relations with Biden?

What they also know is that Trump’s days in office are numbered, and the new US administration will have to work hard to repair the damage caused by the assassination of General Soleimani.

President-elect Biden has already promised to return to the negotiating table with the Islamic Republic and reestablish the nuclear agreement, but for Marandi the new US Administration is no guarantee of better ties.

“It doesn’t matter who the president of the United States is. Their attitude does not change with the change of presidents. And unless Washington fundamentally changes its behavior and starts behaving like a normal country, the Iranians have no choice but to show their strength because it seems to be the only thing that Americans know how to respect,” Marandi concluded.

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