Conflict Alerts # 470, 12 January 2022
In the news
On 3 January, Iran marked the second anniversary of the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani with parades and mourning. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in his speech on the anniversary of assassination said: "The aggressor, murderer and main culprit - the then president of the United States - must be tried and judged under the (Islamic) law of retribution, and God's ruling must be carried out against him."
On the same day, in Iraq, two armed drones were shot down near an Iraqi military base hosting US force near Baghdad's international airport. The wings of downed drones had written on them "Leader's revenge" and "Soleimani's revenge." On the same day Jerusalem Post, the leading daily of Israel also suffered a defacing attack on its website, there was a picture live on the site referring to Dimona nuclear facility and it said: "We are close to you where you do not think about it."
Issues at large
First, the Soleimani legacy. Iranian General Soleimani was an interlocutor and acted as an umbrella for all its allies; being a charismatic commander, he became an accepted and respected figure in the politics of counterbalancing US's proxies in the middle-east. His legacy will be hard to revive, denting the Iranian hegemony.
Second, the targetted killings. The US and its allies have been targeting Iranian scientists and military generals for more than a decade; the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani was part of the pattern. The killings are mainly intended to destabilize and distort the actions of Iran.
Third, Iran's response. The use of drones and cyber-attacks is a developing spectrum of hybrid war, as was seen in the Georgia-Azerbaijan conflict recently. Drones do not carry a human, enhancing the threshold of damage done as there can be no capturing of citizen subjects. Therefore, drones have enlarged the threshold of an all-out war, yet the damage done can be more lethal.
What has changed in the Middle East since his assassination? The nuclear talks are back on the table, yet the Iranian proxies continue unabated secretly. For the US, the priorities have shifted to the Indo-Pacific, and it has left the Gulf in a wounded state, and the possibility of more conflicts has increased. The Persian Gulf has become the theatre of heightened military tensions and a new row in the maritime domain. The mourning celebration as part of the anniversary is an effort by Iran to consolidate the support from its allies and obtain internal legitimacy for their policies towards the US.