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Qassem Soleimani’s removal is a game changer in the Middle East: Here’s why

By Shahram Ahmadi Nasab Emran

Photo Credit: fotosipsak/iStock Photo

Beyond the short-term impact of the elimination of Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in de-escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, the strike that took out the mullahs’ mastermind of terror has important strategic consequences for the region, among them Iran’s regional adventurism, including its influence in Syria and Iraq; Tehran’s nuclear program, and above all the future of  the Iranian people’s fight for freedom and democracy. Here are the main long-term consequences of targeting Soleimani.

1. The Iran regime’s era of provoking the U.S. is literally and officially over. Foreign minister Javad Zarif made that clear in his rushed statement after Tehran’s feeble “retaliation” targeting American and coalition bases in Iraq. According to Zarif, the Iranian response was “concluded.” Apparently, the mullahs had learned their lesson. Their premise (upon which they had launched their recent provocations) —that President Trump has been so weakened by the impeachment proceedings that he needs to avoid military confrontation at any cost in order to get reelected–turned out to be false.

2. The Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, is also finally and officially dead. Iran’s sole playing card in insisting on the terms of the JCPOA as the framework for negotiations on its nuclear program had been the threats to U.S. regional interests posed by the Quds Force and its regional proxies. The operation that terminated Soleimani severely limits both Tehran’s options for further provocations, as well as its options other than accepting President Trump’s proposal for a new deal.

3. Because of the pivotal role played by Soleimani in the regime’s regional adventurism, we can expect major fallout from his termination, specifically the collapse of the mullahs’ interventionist policy. The central element of Iran’s hegemonic influence has been its military presence in Syria under the command of Soleimani. Now the United States and her allies can push for the removal of Iranian  and Iran-backed forces from Syria, thereby to a major extent countering Tehran’s destabilizing influence in both that nation and the region.

4. Iran’s hegemonic influence is nowhere clearer than in Iraq, another focus of the Quds Force’s intimidation.  Now that the people of Iraq are protesting against Iran’s bullying their country, the United States can support their demands and increase its efforts to help independent, secular Iraqi politicians. After years of unchallenged dominance in Iraq, a drastic decline in Iran’s influence is within reach. It is up to the United States to do everything in its power to help Iraqis achieve their goal.

5. Most importantly, President Trump’s decisive reaction to Iran’s provocations by targeting the head of Iran’s terror apparatus reverberates inside Iran. The dissident majority has long been convinced that the United States, despite its sometimes-harsh rhetoric against the tyrannical regime, in fact pursues an appeasement policy and is not supportive of the Iranian people’s fight to end that tyranny at home. The bold action taken by the U.S. has put an end to that long-held belief. This alone has been heartening and a source of moral support for millions of Iranians and their organized resistance movement. The proof can be seen in the recent outbreak of anti-regime demonstrations on January 11,  in which protesters have taken to the streets in many cities across Iran.

Iran’s dissident majority is emboldened by the knowledge that the United States is serious about countering the regime’s destabilizing and destructive activities outside Iran. They in turn will act more strongly to counter its repressive rule at home. Moral and political support by the United States can facilitate that process, and aid Iranians in their fight for freedom and democracy.

Shahram Ahmadi Nasab Emran, M.D., M.A., Ph.D. (c), is a doctoral candidate at Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics, Saint Louis University. He has participated in international policy forums, including the Policy Studies Organization’s annual Middle East Dialogue conferences, and has written for multiple Iranian news outlets.

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