How dangerous is the US-Iran crisis?

Europe's media are still discussing whether a war has been avoided in the US-Iran crisis. After General Soleimani's assasination Tehran attacked several US military bases in Iraq last week. Some observers see President Trump's statement that he would not retaliate as a positive sign. For others, this is just the calm before the storm.

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El País (ES) /

Soleimani can be the new Franz Ferdinand

Europe must not turn a blind eye to the dangers of a new war, historian Nicolas Baverez warns in El País.

“It's not just Australia that is plagued by fires. The geopolitical fire is no less devastating. And Europe is in the direct line of fire. But it is reacting with the same blindness with which it responded to passionate nationalism in the first decade of the 20th century or to the rise of totalitarianism in the 1930s. Some assassinations can change the course of history. This was the case with that of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo. ... The deadly attack of January 3 on General Soleimani - the number two of the Islamic Republic and planner of a Shiite empire that stretches from Lebanon to Afghanistan - could also be such a case.”

SonntagsZeitung (CH) /

Trump has done the right thing

The bottom line is that the US president is right to take a hard stance against Iran, the SonntagsZeitung comments approvingly:

“The Middle East remains a powder keg, and Iran an arsonist that has turned virtually all its neighbours against itself with its threats. Iran runs terrorist groups in Lebanon and Iraq, fuels the civil war in Yemen, keeps the criminal regime in Syria in power, destabilises the region wherever it can. ... Iranian theocrats will play with war as long as they believe it serves their purpose. It was time to teach them a lesson. There won't be a third world war if such regimes have to fear they will lose it.”

Delo (SI) /

US has destroyed the Middle East

According to Delo entirely different players are destabilising the Middle East:

“The truth is that the Americans, together with Israel, have torn the Middle East apart and destabilised it for good with their senseless interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The two wars alone have cost the taxpayer almost three trillion dollars. In the battles that have been going on for almost twenty years at least a million people have died so far, including tens of thousands of soldiers. So who is really destroying the Middle East with their pathological, imperialist geopolitical ambitions?”

Times of Malta (MT) /

There can be no talk of a détente here

The Times of Malta sees a number of factors standing in the way of a long-term easing of tensions in the region:

“The killing of Soleimani will likely lead to widespread retaliatory attacks against US targets from Shi'ites in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria and throughout the Middle East. Terrorist attacks, including on American soil, cannot be ruled out. Hezbollah in Lebanon could renew attacks on northern Israel. There may well be attacks on the Strait of Hormuz where 20 per cent of the world's oil supply passes through, leading to a spike in oil prices - with negative consequences for the global economy. And of course such an escalation could lead to direct war between Iran and the US - which would trigger a long and widening regional conflict.”

Nowaja Gaseta (RU) /

Carte blanche for the militias

Novaya Gazeta's military expert Pavel Felgenhauer sees the US troops in Iraq under considerable pressure:

“The withdrawal of the US from Iraq and later the entire region was Soleimani's goal - and something the Rahbar [Iran's revolutionary leader Khamenei] also dreams of. So Trump is wrong if he thinks Tehran has backed down. The 'revenge attack' in which not a single American died was embarrassing for the Rahbar and the Revolutionary Guards. No doubt they will now order their proxy warriors from the Shiite militias in Iraq to strike and prepare a kind of second Vietnam for the US. Because the militias also have yet to avenge the death of their commander al-Muhandis. And the Iranians will pretend they're not involved and that the US's losses are simply the result of the people's anger.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

A surprisingly classic foreign policy

Lidové noviny is surprised by Trump's statements after the Iranian missile attack:

“Many expected a tough response. But there was nothing of the kind. Trump stipulated precise, reasonable demands for Tehran. His main demand is a treaty so that Iran never develops nuclear weapons and stops supporting terrorists. ... If Iran agrees to this, he will cooperate with it. If not, it will face even tougher economic sanctions. A classic carrot and stick policy. Trump hopes this will work, and work quickly. He knows that once Iran has a nuclear bomb there will be nothing left to discuss.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The narrow path towards de-escalation

Corriere della Sera's US correspondent Massimo Gaggi sees some hope of de-escalation:

“Obsessed with the fear of appearing weak to his voters, the American president wants to show how tough he is. But he has no interest in fighting an election campaign with hundreds of thousands of US soldiers on the battlefields of the Middle East. The ayatollahs know that they can unleash a war that would be catastrophic for all concerned, but can't win it. ... Thus, in what remains an explosive situation, the possibility of de-escalation is emerging. This is a narrow and tortuous path, threatened by possible indirect retaliatory strikes by Hezbollah and other allied militias, but also by Trump's unpredictable reactions to new acts of revenge by Tehran.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

The Shiite militia are taking over again

Iran's retaliatory strike was a well-considered move, De Telegraaf concludes:

“It was an action primarily aimed at showing the Iranian people, America and the rest of the world that Iran won't shy away from confrontation with the US. But the real battle against the Americans will once again take place in the shadows, where it has been fought for decades. ... The main militias in Iraq say that now it's their turn to attack the US. Deploying the militias in the region against American targets is a tactic that Soleimani had refined in recent years and which his successor will probably continue. It gives Tehran the possibility to take action without being held accountable.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Elections looming in both US and Iran

It's not only US domestic policy that is having an impact on the crisis in the Middle East, stresses Helsingin Sanomat:

“The upcoming presidential elections are often cited as an explanation for Trump's actions. At the same time people forget that Iran is also internally divided and there is a struggle for positions of power in the country. ... In Iran there is a dispute about who should be elected as successor to the religious leader Ali Khamenei. Khamenei is 80 years old and there are rumours about his health. Even though it's not the people who elect his successor, many potential candidates believe they can profit from a tense mood in the country.”