Refer to my previous entry: Will there be WW3?
Finally, common sense prevails. The US and Iranian leadership chose the right path: immediate de-escalation. Leaders from both sides have given tough-sounding but conciliatory statements. Even Trump sounded magnanimous.
Crisis averted for the time being.
Iranian admitted that the Ukranian flight was shot down by their own missiles, which mistook it for a military aircraft. Sucks for everyone involved, but at least the incident will be resolved through the normal channel, rather than devolving into a casus belli.
The Iranian leadership gave a strong signal with their bombings of American targets in Iraq. It was purposely made to avoid any Iraqi and American casualties, only to give the message that they have the capability to inflict mass casualties and destruction to nearby enemies. Enough to make some Gulf countries shaking in their boots, and stand up in respect whenever Iran is mentioned.
Yesterday, Iran made a statement that the bombings were sufficient retaliation for the earlier American attack towards General Soleymani. PR-wise, the statement was a brilliant move. With one stroke, they managed to assuage their supporters at home who were baying for blood, while putting fear in the hearts of their Middle Eastern rivals, and, at the same time, reconcile with the US. Wins all around.
One thing for sure: Iran is blessed with highly rational leadership, a fact known for many decades to Israeli politicians and intelligence agencies. Watch the 2012 interview with Meir Dagan, the legendary head of Mossad, on the American news show 60 Minutes. Dagan explained that all his calculations in the Middle East were made with the assumption that Iran is led by a “rational regime”, and that attacking Iran (which Benjamin Netanyahu called for at the time) was a really stupid idea.
I am sure the American letter agencies (CIA, NSA, etc.) came to the same conclusion.
The clerical class and hardcore Islamists in Iran seem to have this fanatical obsession with Islamic eschatology. Even us Sunnis are a bit weirded out with how fanatical they seem, but that’s how the Shias roll. But we should not let these appearances of external piety cloud our geopolitical judgment. The Iranian leadership is intelligent and rational, not crazy.
Iran has been waging a silent but highly successful campaign for Middle Eastern supremacy in the past two decades. Foreign affairs pundits used to joke that Dick Cheney was an Iranian agent: the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq benefit none other than Iran.
Iran has never been in direct conflict since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, yet the Iranian circle of influence in the Middle East has grown steadily since 2001: now Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq are part of the Shia crescent. Every destabilizing events in the Middle East: Iraq war, ISIS, Saudi-Yemen war, etc., seem to strengthen Iran. All these without a single drop of blood spilled in direct conflict.
Now that Iran has become quite the contender for the top dog in the Middle East, they are not going to blow all the advantages away in a haphazard attack towards a military superpower, despite the vague allusion by their clerics that Shiite victory and supremacy will bring closer the End of Days and the arrival of the Islamic Messiah. They learnt their lesson from the Iran-Iraq war, where they lost millions of their people in what seemed like a pointless war. No, Iran needs to play smart. Support the proxies, choose the battles wisely, and when the heat is too much, retreat while saving face, as what they did with the US recently.
Iran is playing the long game.