Tensions between the US and Iran reached a pivotal point on January 3rd when President Trump ordered a drone strike on Qasem Soleimani, a major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and commander of Iran’s Quds Force, which is considered a terrorist organization by the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. He was killed near the Baghdad International Airport in Iraq, along with nine others, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the commander of Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq.
Hostilities had increased after President Trump’s decision in 2018 to withdraw the US from the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and to reimpose sanctions on Iran and its people. In June of 2019, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shot down a US drone that it claimed was in Iranian airspace. The US claimed it was flying in international airspace. And on December 27th, a paramilitary group supported by Iran launched a rocket attack at an Iraqi base, which killed a US contractor.
The US then launched airstrikes against Iraq and Syria, killing 25 Iran-backed militiamen, leading Shia militiamen to retaliate by attacking the US embassy in the Green Zone in Baghdad. President Trump ordered the strike soon afterward.
The Quds Force was active in the Iraq War, and explosives that they provided were responsible for 600 American deaths.
After the killing of Soleimani, Iran responded by launching missile attacks on two Iraqi bases that house American personnel. There were no casualties, although eleven servicemembers were treated with concussion symptoms.
In a complex and rapidly developing situation with vast implications for security and peace, several Hamilton Lugar School faculty have shared their insights and knowledge with the media. On January 16th, Hamilton Lugar School Founding Dean Lee Feinstein discussed these events on WFIU with Ambassador Feisal Amin Rasoul al-Istrabadi, who is director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East, and Assistant Professor Hussein Banai, an expert on US-Iran relations.
The context and rationale for the drone strike, the ramifications of killing a general in a different nation’s sovereign territory, and reactions in Iraq, Iran, and the US are all important considerations. Other media appearances by Hamilton Lugar School faculty include:
Assistant Professor of International Studies Hussein Banai
- Zing.vn, a Vietnamese publication. First article. Second article.
- Money Today, a Korean publication
Associate Professor of International Studies David Bosco
Director for the Study of the Middle East, Ambassador Feisal Amin Rasoul al-Istrabadi
Chair of Central Eurasian Studies Jamsheed Choksy
Assistant Professor of International Studies Andrew Bell
Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Practice Lee Hamilton