STANFORD – The assassination by the United States of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, was certainly a major escalation in the two countries’ long-running conflict. But it need not beget World War III (as some pundits are already predicting). Moreover, while the U.S. may have achieved a short-term tactical advantage by killing Soleimani, the Iranian regime could yet benefit from recent developments.
Iran has been taking drastic steps to ameliorate the severe regional and domestic challenges it currently faces. For example, it recently confronted a sudden upsurge in Iraqi nationalist fervor over its influence in that country. Iran’s diplomatic outposts were burned and its goods boycotted. Even the Iranian-born Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s highest Shiite cleric, has spoken out against foreign (meaning Iranian) interference in Iraqi affairs.