The world held its breath during five tense days of conflict between Iran and the United States, and it appears, for the moment, we have stepped back from the precipice of war.
The targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week prompted an Iranian ballistic missile attack on two Iraqi airbases housing U.S. troops. The missiles missed, no doubt intentionally, causing no deaths or injuries. The attack presumably was Iran’s way of claiming it had responded to the assassination, thus saving face while walking back from all-out war.
On Jan. 8, President Donald Trump signaled that tensions with Iran were decreasing. Speaking from the White House, he noted that after Iran’s attack on the U.S. bases, the Islamic Republic “appears to be standing down.” The American president also did not threaten any further U.S. military action.
But this isn’t over. He has not rescinded the threat he made earlier in the week to launch a devastating military strike against Iran, including the destruction of 52 Iranian cultural sites. Any standing threat of this nature is a dangerous spark.
The tinderbox is still smoldering and could explode again with the slightest provocation.
Furthermore, Israel remains under threat. Iranian officials said that if the United States retaliates for the airbase strikes in Iraq, Iran will respond by destroying Dubai and the Israeli port city of Haifa, as well as unleashing terrorist groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon to inflict additional horror on the Jewish state. It had nothing to do with the killing of Soleimani, of course, but as our strongest Mideast ally Israel is a regular proxy for those who wish to do the U.S. harm.
Let us take this needed pause in the hostilities to examine what has taken place. Two years ago, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear treaty negotiated between Iran and Western nations, preventing Iran from pursuing a nuclear bomb for years. The treaty completely unraveled in the wake of the Soleimani killing, with Iran tearing up the agreement and announcing full speed ahead on its malign nuclear ambitions. Trump responded by calling for a new international deal with Iran, but considering that the rest of the Western powers are still on board with the existing deal, his call appears fanciful.
Meanwhile, people around the world nervously await the next chapter in this ongoing tragedy. As always, we pray for peace.
Yes, the world is better off with the murderous Soleimani dead. We do not mourn for him. But in this part of the world, where the stakes are perennially high, it is critical that all parties practice extreme caution and act with political restraint. Many, many lives depend on it.