Iran has claimed responsibility for more than a dozen missiles that were fired at two U.S. military bases in Iraq. In response to the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian government believes this is an acceptable level of retaliation, and with no actual casualties, it could be a tit-for-tat piece of theatre designed to assuage the home crowd rather than an escalation of the conflict.
President Trump was swift in sending out a message stating that “All is well.” The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, took great pains to show the world that his country was acting within a semblance of international law. He wrote:
“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.
“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
Between the Lines
The minister’s message was perhaps a little more measured than the actual bombing. He was careful to point out that as well as acting within the U.N. Charter, the “measures” were also “concluded.” It would not be outlandish to suggest that when over a dozen missiles fail to kill or injure a single person, the intent was never actual harm. Was this whole incident conducted just to help the Iranian government save face with the home audience?
This could be read as an attempt at de-escalation. The U.S. took out a top-ranking general, Iran responded with a volley of missiles; in the eyes of Tehran, a form of justice has been done. Whether the Trump administration will strike back is, as yet, unknown.
Never one to miss out on an opportunity for political point-scoring, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), was quick to take pot-shots at the Trump administration. She tweeted:
“We must ensure the safety of our servicemembers, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence … America & world cannot afford war.”
By lambasting the administration for essentially taking down a terrorist organizer responsible for the deaths of thousands, it seems Pelosi is trying to goad the president into making hasty decisions. In one single sentence, she demands that both Iran is forced to stop committing acts of violence, but that such a task is achieved without provocative language.
Is she suggesting a plane full of cash delivered in the dead of night as per the Obama administration?
Both Iran and the U.S. have an opportunity to cease hostilities. Tehran has assuaged its more extremist elements by taking action, and Washington can safely say that no intention of death or harm was meant by the missile attack.
The saga between these two nations is far from over, but perhaps, with clear heads, the main players can see this for what it is: an inarticulate attempt to avoid war.
Read more from Mark Angelides.