Trump needs to rethink his Middle East foreign policy

After nearly two decades of conflict in the Middle East coming to a close, President Donald Trump has quite possibly reignited the “forever war” stigma surrounding United State’s foreign policy in the region. Trump authorized the assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani earlier this month, and the killing is definitely a step in an uncertain direction for policy guided towards Iran.
General Soleimani was an Iranian military leader who headed the Quds Force, a special operations group part of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Soleimani was no doubt an enemy of the American people. He orchestrated countless terrorist attacks against America and our allies throughout the Middle East, especially Iraq, killing hundreds. Soleimani was also the mastermind behind proxy wars in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. So, it is not a question about whether the move was right or wrong, but rather the implications that will result from such an escalatory move.
The Iranian military leader was in Iraq when an American drone strike destroyed his envoy just outside Baghdad International Airport. This furthers Trump’s hyper-aggressive stance in the region, and completely annuls all Obama Era diplomacy with Iran, which stabilized relations between the two nations. Furthermore, Trump’s attack was against international law, which prohibits all extra-judicial killings or assassination attempts. This has led to distrust towards the United States from the global community, as well as severe hypocrisy from the Trump administration.
The United States’ European allies have refused to comment on the assassination because they do not want to drive up conflict with Iran, especially after renegotiating the 2015 nuclear deal that Trump left late last year. This unilateral attack has not only outraged Iran, but ostracized the U.S. from its allies in Europe.
On Jan. 3, 2020, a day after the assassination, Trump said, “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.” But the President’s words may be misleading. If Iran continues to take retaliatory action against the United States after the assassination, then another war will be inevitable in the Middle East.
Trump, all throughout his campaign, made a promise to end forever wars in the Middle East. He cited that reason for pulling troops from Syria in late 2019, and he ridiculed former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama for their continued involvement in the region throughout their terms. But now that Trump has killed the military leader of a sovereign state, it is incredibly likely that the U.S. will not be leaving the Middle East anytime soon.
Almost immediately after the drone strike that killed Soleimani, the Iranian people rushed the streets of the capital, Tehran, to mourn their fallen general. Soleimani made the Iranian people feel protected from terrorism and fighting occuring in the region. Likewise, the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, can use this moment to push the anti-American agenda through their government, in turn making it far more difficult for the two nations to negotiate diplomatically.
After the assassination there was certainty that Iran would respond with force, being as Soleimani was very close to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Just a few days later, Iran sent missiles at US bases in Iraq, killing zero, but injuring 11. Trump responded by further increasing economic sanctions against Iran. If the escalation continues to snowball over the coming months it is not clear what could be at stake.
The impacts of the conflict between the United States and Iran has not been limited to the two belligerent countries. After the initial escalation in the latter half of 2019 oil prices have trended downwards. Shifting oil prices highly impacts the global economy, and Iran has the power to increase those prices, not only because of their large reserves, but also their geopolitical position to the oil trading hub of the world, the Persian Gulf.
President Trump’s continued use of deadly force in the Middle East not only contradicts his campaign promises in 2016, but it moves the region into further conflict. Trump must reevaluate his hyper-aggressive stance towards Iran if he wants any hope of ending “forever wars” in the region.