Qasem Soleimani, who was the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force was killed in a US drone strike on the 3nd of January 2020. Killed with him was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
Soleimani was considered to be the architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East. Soleimani was one of the people who was listed as an individual targeted by sanctions according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747. But not only the United Nations; the European Union and Switzerland also subjected him to sanctions due to his involvement in the Syrian civil war. He provided support and equipment to aid the Syrian administration to suppress protests. The US regarded him as a terrorist.
Soleimani’s death is not surprising if one takes into context the situation over the past years in the region. He was responsible for a division tasked with extraterritorial military clandestine operations. His actions against primarily civilians and/or diplomatic personnel made him a target of interest. Taking out Soleimani isn’t the start of a new war, nor should it be considered as an act of war. The fact that he was running clandestine operations on Iraqi soil to destabilize the country make this more an anti-terrorism act then anything else.
War? No. Repercussions? Yes
So is this the beginning of a new war then? Was it an act of war? Not really, if taken into context it was something bound to happen one way or the other. Soleimani took a risk by going to Iraq and although Teheran is currently threatening with repercussions a direct war between the US and Iran is unlikely to happen. The rhetoric from Teheran will remain the same, and the continuing attacks against embassies and US citizens will continue. As well as their destabilizing measures, even with Soleimani gone, will continue. Teheran favors this way of destabilizing the region instead of a full our war. Iran was already warned by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who in a press conference on the 27th of December 2019 stated that violent acts by Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq will be met with U.S. military force.
So what to expect in the coming months? Most likely a lot of political rattle on social media. Besides that, Teheran will step up its efforts in the game it has been playing all this time. Yes, Soleimani is gone, but Teheran will continue with extraterritorial military clandestine operations. It is a long term game, in which Teheran hopes it will win from not only the US, but also pivots in the region; Turkey and Israel.