What's behind Trump's actions against Iran?

Iran has attacked US positions in Iraq in retaliation to the killing of high-ranking Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad. Tehran said the move was a slap in the face for the US, in response to which US president Donald Trump tweeted: "all is well". Europe's press discusses the motives for Trump's actions against Iran as well as the potential consequences.

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Jutarnji list (HR) /

Willing to resort to any means

The US president has set a spiral of violence in motion, says Jutarnji list:

“Trump's reaction was not rational but rash and emotional. Even President Bush junior, who never shied away from war in the Middle East, didn't dare to attack Soleimani. ... Convinced of his own infallibility, Trump openly threatened to commit war crimes and destroy cultural assets which, we hope, the Pentagon will not allow. But can anyone stop a President who is getting more and more nervous the closer the impeachment proceedings in the Senate and the elections come?”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The people want a strong man

Behind Trump's politics is a new understanding of sovereignty according to which the head of state need not submit to the rules of democracy, Columnist Ezio Mauro writes in La Repubblica:

“This 'liberation' of those in power from their duties meets with considerable public approval because it fits in with the current mood. Anxious, poorly represented, suspicious, frightened by uncontrolled supranational phenomena, people appreciate the protection this sort of politics guarantees. They feel exposed and pin the blame for that on democratic procedures and rules. They see them as obligations that have lost their justification, as a restriction whose legitimacy they no longer recognise. This interplay of dissatisfaction and simplification creates the need for a 'strong man'.”

Strana (UA) /

The US must fear for its position in the Mid East

The Iraqi parliament's demand that foreign troops should leave the country puts the US in a bind, Viktoria Venk writes on Strana.ua:

“The Baghdad declaration opens up great opportunities for key players in the region, particularly Iran, as well as other geopolitical rivals of the US. ... Rather than strengthening Trump's image and America's role in the region, the killing of Soleimani put the United States in a very uncomfortable position. ... Without Iraq's formal approval, the presence of US troops is a blatant aggression and occupation. ... Basically Iraq has made it clear that its partnership with Iran is more important than the Americans' favours.”

Milliyet (TR) /

A boost for Iraqi Kurds

Milliyet focuses on another potential consequence of the operation:

“The US's main target in the assasination of Qassim Soleimani was not Iran, but Iraq. If the goal had been to weaken Iran, Soleimani would have been attacked in his own country. Now the following will happen: US soldiers in Iraq will retreat to the north, to the region under the control of the Kurdistan regional government. This will clearly bring the autonomous region under US influence. ... This is a new situation that will have a major impact on the balance of power in the region. Just as the Kurds settled across northern Iraq after the first Gulf War, the autonomous structures were consolidated after the second Gulf War. The current 'third Iraq intervention' could further strengthen the Kurdish structures.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Tehran's strike capability overrated

Commenting in La Stampa the Iranian-born US journalist Masih Alinejad, who is critical of Iran's government, argues that the regime will not retaliate on a large scale:

“There is certainly no lack of US targets in the region, but the alarmist speculation about a third world war is simply stupid. Even a small-scale war is unlikely. The Islamic Republic has survived for 40 years because the religious leadership has only one strategic mission: survival. ... The regime's main goal is to consolidate its base on the home front. Despite the images of crowds demanding 'death to America' on state-controlled television channels, the regime is shaky. Instead of risking war with the United States, the Islamic Republic will entrust Hezbollah with the task of responding to the attack.”

Lrt (LT) /

Iran will confine itself to symbolic acts

A war would not be in Tehran's interest, writes Matas Maldeikis, a former EU delegate of the Lithuanian parliament, in Lrt:

“It has been clear to people in Iran for some time now that the US will soon withdraw from the Middle East. ... In the very near future the shale gas revolution will fundamentally change the US's position in the energy resources market, and it will go from being the world's largest energy importer to an energy seller. The US therefore no longer has any major geopolitical interest in remaining in this region. And this means that a very strong reaction from Iran, which would only delay the US withdrawal, would not be useful, especially for Iran itself. It is therefore likely that we will only see symbolic actions aimed at reassuring the people and showing that Iran's leadership is taking up the fight against 'the US and Zionist imperialism'.”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

War unavoidable unless one side changes tack

The US and Iran could slide into a direct military confrontation, Ilta-Sanomat fears:

“Iran is one of the strongest military powers in the Middle East. But it's not strong enough to engage the US army directly. So it will probably seek indirect revenge. The United States, on the other hand, lacks the courage to launch a ground offensive, which would be the only way to overthrow the government in Tehran. This stalemate situation has existed for a long time. To end it would take either a change of heart by one side or the other, or a war with no holds barred. After Soleimani's death the latter is unfortunately becoming increasingly likely.”

Gazete Duvar (TR) /

Calculated provocation from the West

Iran must react to the killing of Soleimani - and is playing right into the hands of Washington and Tel Aviv, Gazete Duvar concludes:

“For Tehran and the Shiites there could have been no greater insult than the murder of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. ... It shows that both countries [the US and Israel] were not bluffing about war. But neither wants to be the first to attack. ... They bully Iran at every opportunity and expect it to react. But what is clear is that the US and Israel are very relaxed because they have nothing to lose. The US is confident of its military superiority. ... This doesn't mean that a war will break out tomorrow. On the contrary, it believes this will prevent Iran from engaging in a war.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

A most dangerous election campaign

The execution of the Iranian general has made the situation in the Middle East much more dangerous according to Dagens Nyheter:

“Now the United States has killed one of the most popular Iranian men, the general who protected the nation from the IS and was regarded as a likely candidate for president. It's obvious that the Iranians are now rallying behind their regime. ... It's hard to see the attack as anything other than an opportunity for Trump to win over voters by balancing on the brink of a major war in the Middle East. This is all the more ironic when we recall Trump's repeated tweets of eight years ago in which he claimed President Obama would attack Iran to get elected. ... Now it's Trump who is leading the world's most dangerous presidential campaign eleven months before the elections.”

Contributors (RO) /

Iranians not clearly behind their regime

In his blog for Contributors, analyst Alexandru Lazescu voices doubts about whether the Iranian people's anger will now mainly be directed against the US:

“In the sections of the commemorative ceremony for Soleimani broadcast by international news channels, the relatively apathetic faces are reminiscent of the large crowds that gathered in Ceaușescu's times. Discontent over the country's ubiquitous corruption is rife in the Iranian population. ... It's not at all certain whether Soleimani's death will spark much unity or patriotism in Iran beyond the official propaganda. It should not be forgotten that Soleimani's troops are the very ones that brutally suppressed the demonstrations against the regime [in November].”

Ethnos (GR) /

Three birds with one stone

Trump has scored points on several fronts with this operation, Ethnos notes with surprise:

“Unpredictable as ever, he has unexpectedly destroyed three Shiite pillars: the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces militia and the Iranian Quds Force. Soleimani was the architect of the Shiite axis from Tehran to Beirut and the pioneer of Iran's victories on the battlefields in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. What has Trump accomplished? Three things in one go: the applause of his domestic allies for his dynamic response to Iranian aggression. The restoration of the US's prestige after the monstrosity of 'Operation Peace Spring' [when Trump was accused of abandoning the Kurds when Erdoğan launched his offensive in northern Syria]. And he has also strengthened his leadership profile in the middle of the impeachment proceedings against him.”

SonntagsZeitung (CH) /

A chance for a new Iran

The killing of Soleimani could change the Islamic Republic for the better, the SonntagsZeitung hopes:

“Soleimani's execution was without doubt risky. Trump resorted to this method even though two of his predecessors shied away from it because of its unpredictable consequences. But there are also positive consequences among them: Soleimani's death could remove an element of resistance and open new doors to a reconciliation. Anyone who pretends to know what will happen now is lying. Once tempers cool down again, in the long run a new Iran could even emerge. Then in the end no one in Tehran will shed a tear for Qasem Soleimani.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Protect Iraq

The international community must ensure that fragile Iraq isn't further burdened by proxy conflicts, Hürriyet Daily News warns:

“One of the most important points around this escalation is the fact that this conflict between Iran and the U.S. takes place on Iraqi territories. It's very difficult for the weak Iraqi government to take control in the aftermath of the assassination. Already struggling to address growing economic problems and disorder in the country, the Iraqi government will have difficulties in dispersing potential fresh massive protests. Therefore, countries like Turkey and other responsible members of the international community should urge both Iran and the U.S. not to further jeopardize the delicate situation in Iraq.”