In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Iran fired approximately 20 ballistic missiles at two American airbases in Iraq. No American casualties have been reported. If such actions mark the mere start of a retaliation, then answering what follows next is a waiting game.
But, if last night represents the full extent of Iran’s plans for avenging the death of Quds Force leader Qassam Soleimani, then President Trump should consider the events of the past week a foreign policy victory.
As I’ve written here, Iran’s appetite for war is far more limited than the mainstream media and the Left make it seem in the years leading up to, during, and after the Iran Deal. Iran is a regional threat but not necessarily in the conventional warfare sense. For the last forty years Iran has protected the spoils of its Islamic Revolution through unconventional warfare tactics, relying on specialized soldiers, like the Quds Force, to protect its regional interests.
Last night’s display of missile strength was predictable, given that Iran’s conventional military power lies almost solely in its expansive missile arsenal, which as of late, as pointed out by Behnam Taleblu of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Iran has strived to inject with some qualitative edge. In other words, Iran’s missile superiority in the past has been a result of sheer number.
But we didn’t really see that ambition on display last night. As Bret Baier pointed out yesterday evening following the missile strikes, Iran did not target the largest base in which American forces were housed, nor did it attempt to attack the base closest to Iran. Yesterday’s performance seemed more an act to save face and to appease the media cries for retaliation than a bid to enter into war with the United States. The Iranian regime may be proud, but they are not stupid.
It’s likely the regime will remain sensitive regarding whether the attack amounted to a sufficient show of strength or not. According to the New York Times, some Iranian outlets on Wednesday morning were reporting dozens of deaths of U.S. soldiers, citing information obtained from the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). As we know, this death toll is entirely fabricated, but it hints at the regime’s desire to exude strength rather than genuinely wield it and face the full brunt of the U.S. military.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javid Zarif, took to Twitter following the missile strikes to declare that the regime “took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.” This language is suggestive that Iran feels at least temporarily satiated with last night’s event, which in no short order allowed the regime to have its cake and eat it too.
Again, while there’s still the possibility of unconventional responses, if yesterday evening serves as the entirety of the Iranian response to Soleimani’s death, President Trump should count the events as a win. We managed to eliminate Iran’s tactical mastermind and with no American casualties. For those who had screeched that we were approaching the brink of World War III, they severely underestimated both the value of deterrence and in accompaniment, the global perception of U.S. military strength. There are many on the left and within the media who doubt American exceptionalism, even beyond the military sphere, but there remain others who are fully aware of American military supremacy, including the Iranian regime.