The US killed a top Iranian general: What happens now?

The US killed a top Iranian general: What happens now?

US forces on Thursday night killed General Qassim Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force. The assassination, carried out via a drone strike in Baghdad, was framed as a response to recent attacks by Iran-backed militias on the US Embassy in Baghdad, and the killing of a US contractor in northern Iraq last week. The Pentagon said it believed Major General Suleimani was planning further attacks on US interests in the region.


Given General Suleimani's prominence – he was the main architect of Iran's foreign policy and one of the country's most powerful and revered public figures – this event dramatically escalates ongoing US-Iran tensions.

Here are a few key questions to consider in the coming days and weeks.

What kind of response will we see from Iran? Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called the US strike an "act of terrorism," and the country's all-powerful Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has promised "severe revenge."

Immediate places to watch are Iraq, where Iranian proxies may escalate low-level conflict with US troops, or the broader Persian Gulf, where Iran may ratchet up the pressure again on oil shipping lanes – crude oil prices have already jumped 4% as of this writing. And don't forget about cyber, an area in which Iran has demonstrated capabilities, and could lash out at the US or its allies. Lastly, Iran has the ability to carry out militant or terrorist attacks against US interests beyond the region itself, though this could invite a very severe response if US civilians are killed.

But the Iranians have to calibrate their response carefully. Given how prominent Suleimani was at home, Tehran has to show some muscle here, but likely wants to avoid a full-fledged, direct military conflict with the much more powerful United States military. Proxy skirmishes are one thing – and are an area in which Iran excels – but direct combat is another. As Trump's response yesterday showed, the US is willing to escalate dramatically when American lives are concerns (as opposed to incidents where Iran merely harasses US regional allies or unmanned drones, after which Trump did little).

What happens to the US forces in Iraq? The Iraqi government, which is close to Iran, will likely increase pressure on the US to withdraw. In recent years, Suleimani had succeeded in advancing Tehran's interests in the country, in part by building up an array of shia militias who helped defeat ISIS and then turned their battlefield victories into political power at the ballot box. The US hit on Suleimani also killed the leader of one of those militias.

On Friday, Iraq's embattled Prime Minister condemned the strike and said he would order Parliament to take steps to preserve Iraq's "sovereignty." That could mean legislation that would rescind or modify the authorization for US troops to be in the country. Whether the US would comply with that on Iraq's terms is an open question. More broadly, the prospect of deeper conflict with Iran complicates Trump's own stated preference for pulling the US out of Iraq.

How might this affect the US presidential election? With ten months to go it's too early to say, but any escalation with Iran will surely make foreign policy a much bigger part of the campaigns. Democrats will seek to paint Trump as impulsive and ill-informed on a dangerous foreign policy issue, while the White House will portray Trump as a strong defender of the US globally, who is unconcerned about what the foreign policy establishment thinks.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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