GZERO Media logo

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.

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

More Show less

GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

The enormous scale of the coronavirus pandemic was captured earlier this week as the global death toll surpassed 1 million people. As the weight of the grim milestone sunk in, the New York Times noted that COVID-19 has now killed more people this year than the scourges of HIV, malaria, influenza, and cholera — combined. While some countries like Germany and South Korea are models in how to curb the virus' spread through social distancing and mask wearing, other countries around the world have recently seen caseloads surge again, raising fears of a dreaded "second wave" of infections. Here's a look at countries where the per-capita caseload has spiked in recent days.

"The jury is out" European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde says when asked if things in Europe will get economically worse before they get better. "All I know is that it's going to be a journey, and probably a long journey." Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of a new GZERO World episode.

UNGA banner

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal