Iran: Drop in the water or prelude to war?

By James Burkett: Junior Editor

Relations remain tense between Iran and America. In light of the United State’s assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani on the 3rd January, relations between the two powers have reached their lowest in years. While the decision has proven fairly popular among American voters – a poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 41% of Americans surveyed approved of the drone strike – understandably Iran’s response has been swift and brutal, and has included military and missile strikes against U.S missile strikes.

In light of these back-and-forth attacks, the question remains: is war likely? The answer, not unlike the situation, is complicated.

With the United States abandoning the 2015 Iran Deal over what they viewed as “disastrous” terms and Iran’s defiant pledge to shed the nuclear restrictions it brought about, there’s been very little to keep ties between the rival states strong. This opposition has only been made worse by the Trump administration’s growing support for Iran’s rival Israel, not least in light of the two-step peace plan that only favours Israel. With tensions and rhetoric between the two countries heating up, many fear that this could be the prelude to war.

However, so far this seems unlikely. Since Iran’s missile strikes on the 3rd, the back and forth between the two states has been largely limited to rhetoric, with both parties denouncing the other and threatening veiled repercussions. However, if anything these opponents are focused more on what’s happening domestically than on each other. In the United States, President Trump is halfway through his trial in the Senate over impeachment charges, where he is expected to be acquitted by the second chamber. However, the administration is also facing new and surprising attempts by the House to try and curb presidential powers in wartime and conflict, in light of the President’s failure to consult its speaker and other members on the plan to assassinate General Suleimani. The Trump administration is also under increasing scrutiny over its aggressive treatment of Iran, such as Pence’s insistence that Iran change its behaviour through what appears to be a largely forceful method.

“We don’t seek regime change in Iran, but we want to see the regime change its behavior.” 

  • Mike Pence, CBS Evening News. 

Iran has its own fair share of domestic issues. The regime has recently come under fire for its response to an illegal rally in Tehran, during which the UK Ambassador to Iran – who participated in the rally – was briefly arrested and has faced sharp criticism over its brutal response to protests both domestically and internationally. Civil unrest has been a key part of Iranian society for months now, erupting again near the end of last year with protests over the rise of gasoline prices by 50%. The Iranian regime’s response was swift and brutal, leaving 180 dead and arrested around 7,000 protestors in just one week. Rather than stem the tide of the protests, it has only led to more protests and opposition, forcing increasingly brutal crackdowns by the Iranian government. 

With both administrations facing backlash and unrest within their own states, it would seem that war is not on the cards for either state. Neither the United States nor Iran are currently in a position where a war would be met with support either by the voters or by their state’s representatives. 

That said, the two aren’t happy to just let bygones be bygones. Just today, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has blasted the United States as a terrorist force, hearkening back to last month’s decision by the Iranian parliament to vote in favour of a bill branding United States forces – including the Pentagon – as a terrorist force acting against Iran’s interests. This bill was also responsible for allocating $220 million to the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force to try and avenge Soleimani’s death. The two are now engaged in what seems to be a war of words, trading insults and mockery instead of pursuing military action.

However, nothing is certain. While war is unlikely, the world waits with bated breath to see what happens next. Until then, it’s purely a matter of waiting for the next stage.

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