Are US forces in the Middle East in danger of being targeted by Hezbollah or other Iranian proxies? Here too the stakes are clear. President Trump ordered the strike that killed Soleimani because Iranian-backed demonstrators and militias were harassing the US embassy in Iraq and an American contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in December. The Trump administration has said that Soleimani was planning more mischief, which is easy to believe: far from being a martyr to peace and non-interventionism, Soleimani was a man whose business was fomenting war and insurgency. It’s tempting to call him an Iranian neoconservative. He was in Iraq on a mission of exporting revolution.
There is a danger that ideological warhawks in the US and Iran alike will try to seize an opportunity here. Regimes may not be suicidal, but ambitious would-be leaders have a calculus of their own as to what risks are worth taking for their own advancement. And even provocations that annoy rather than harm the US will be hyped up by the warmongers in our own country to call for another regime-change war. Iran is not a military threat to the United States, but it is a large country — about four times the size of Iraq — and an invasion would be no easy undertaking. An occupation would pose even more difficulties, and the world’s strategic environment is much less propitious for US adventurism than it was at the time of the Iraq invasion in 2003. Russia, China, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia would all take maximum advantage of America’s distraction. India or Pakistan might do so, too.