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How to Avoid Another War in the Middle East

De-escalating After the Soleimani Strike

A protest against the assassination of Qasem Soleimani in Tehran, January 2020 Nazanin Tabatabaee / Reuters

Killing the Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani may well have been the most consequential foreign policy decision of Donald Trump’s presidency. Its repercussions will be felt for days, months, and even years to come—but what exactly they will be depends on what the Trump administration does next.

The strike has been explained by senior U.S. officials as both an effort to deter future Iranian aggression and an act of preventive defense in the face of an imminent attack. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are already out crowing with patriotic tweets reminiscent of the “Mission Accomplished” banners rolled out in the first weeks of the Iraq war. But what was true then in Iraq is true now: the crisis will not end here.

Iran’s retaliatory actions will unfold over time, often in ways no one expects, and they won’t be limited to Iraq or even

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