January 3 A year ago today, Iran’s commander Suleimani lost his life at the hands of the U.S. military, and Iran responded militarily, thus lighting the “firepowder barrel” in the Middle East. Sanctions, confrontations, raids… Both sides are wrestling in multiple “battlefields”.
After a year, the whole Gulf region is still shrouded in the shadow of the US-Iran conflict. U.S. President-elect Biden is about to come to power in 2021, and Iran will hold a presidential election. Will the United States and Iran sound the war alarm or will the past?
Iran’s revenge is “on the way”?
Killing and revenge have been the key words throughout the past year. Iran’s vows to retaliate against the United States have never stopped since Suleimani’s assassination.
“As long as you [the United States] are still in this area, it means that we have not made final revenge.” Iranian President Rouhani said on December 30, 2020 that the Iranian people reserve the right to revenge for Suleimani.
Asham Hani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, has said that Iran’s determination to stop the United States and its “puppets” from committing terrorism and destabilizing the region will force the United States to eventually withdraw its troops from Western Asia.
Earlier, Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei claimed that after the attack and death of Suleimani, tens of thousands of Iranian people demonstrated and gave the United States a “heavy slap in the face”; attacking U.S. military bases in Iraq with ballistic missiles was another “slap in the face” by Iran.
In addition to harsh words, Iran has also offered more practical actions. On December 27, 2020, Iranian judiciary increased the list of Americans suspected of being involved in the assassination of Suleimani to 48.
Amir Abdullahian, spokesman of the Committee on the Anniversary of Suleimani’s death, said that according to information from the Iranian judiciary, Iran has so far served arrest warrants for these people in six countries. He hopes that in the “so far future”, they can be tried.
Show off “muscles”
The United States challenges Iran’s “red line”
In the face of Iran’s tough position, the United States is not willing to show weakness. As the first anniversary of Suleimani’s death approaches, the United States frequently carries out military activities in the Middle East.
On December 21, 2020, local time, the U.S. Navy rarely disclosed that the U.S. missile nuclear submarine Georgia, escorted by two warships, sailed into the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, and also emphasized the details of the submarine’s combat capability.
The United States shows off its military “muscles” during this sensitive period. Some analysts say that the Trump administration has only a few weeks left in its term, and may try to seize the final “window period” to increase pressure on Iran to put more obstacles for the next U.S. government to return to the Iran nuclear agreement.
As an ally of the United States, Israel has also intensified its military activities in Gulf waters. Israel Defense Forces spokesman Zilbertman said that countries should be highly vigilant about Iran’s “threats”.
In addition to challenging Iran’s “red line” at sea, the U.S. military sent bombers to the Middle East three times in the 45 days ending December 30, 2020.
Is there room for the U.S.-Iran differences to turn around?
Although the relationship between the United States and Iran is rising and the situation in the Middle East has repeatedly heated up, expert analysis said that the possibility of a “hot war” between the two sides is not high.
Iran’s ambassador to Iraq recently pointed out that reprisals against Suleimani do not need to involve military intervention. Observers believe that Iran is waiting for the opportunity to change the U.S. government.
U.S. President-elect Biden promised to renegotiate the Iran nuclear agreement and return the United States to the agreement. Rouhani said he was confident that the new government led by Biden would return to the Iran nuclear agreement and lift sanctions against Iraq.
Li Weijian, vice president of the China Middle East Society, said that the biggest problem Iran is facing now is the sanctions imposed by the United States. It may regard Biden to come to power as a hope to improve relations and bring about new changes. Therefore, Iran will not retaliate at present.
Not only Iran is watching the United States, but also the United States is looking at Iran. Iran will hold a presidential election in June 2021, and current President Rouhani is the representative of moderates. Li Weijian said that for Biden, if he continues to exert extreme pressure on Iran like Trump, Iran’s hardliners will have the upper hand, which will be even more disadvantageous to the United States.
Li Weijian pointed out that the United States is unwilling to fall into war with Iran, which may especially cause the war to consume more than any previous war. Biden pointed out that one of Trump’s mistakes was to “almost drag the United States into a full-scale conflict with Iran”. Biden wants to change that, so he won’t want Iran’s hardliners to come to power.
The first anniversary of Suleimani’s death
Highlights of U.S.-Iran Relations
On January 3, 2020, the United States launched an air strike on Baghdad International Airport in Iraq, killing Suleimani, an important Iranian figure in charge of military operations in the Middle East.
On January 8, 2020, as a retaliation for the killing of Suleimani by the U.S. military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran launched missile attacks on several U.S. military bases in Iraq.
On June 29, 2020, Iran issued arrest warrants to dozens of people including US President Trump, claiming that they were involved in the attack and death of Suleimani and requested Interpol for assistance.
On November 27, 2020, Iranian nuclear scientist Fakrizad was killed in an attack near Tehran. Iran’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations warns the United States and Israel against taking any “risky measures” against Iran.
On December 8, 2020, the U.S. government announced sanctions against an Iranian official and a university on the grounds that they were related to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran’s “Quds Brigade”. Subsequently, Iran announced that the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen would be added to the sanctions list.
On December 27, 2020, the Iranian judiciary increased the list of Americans suspected of participating in the assassination of Suleimani to 48.