The US took out Iran's top commander. So what happens next? President Trump insisted Friday afternoon that he's not looking for "regime change" or to start a war. "We took action last night to stop a war," he said at Mar-a-Lago, per CNN. "We did not take action to start a war." In defending the military strike that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Trump said "the Iranian regime's aggression in the region—including its use of proxy fighters to destabilize its neighbors—must end and it must end now." The president's comments came as the Pentagon prepared to send 3,000 US troops to the Mideast from Fort Bragg for a scheduled stay of 60 days, reports NBC News. Related coverage:
- Consequences: In the Atlantic, Kathy Gilsinan and Mike Giglio write that the airstrike is far more consequential than previous military actions of this nature because Soleimani had the resources and backing of an entire nation. "Of the most feared terrorist leaders the United States has hunted and killed this century—from Osama bin Laden to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—no death ever had the significance of the one America just dealt," they write. The oft-cited "proxy war" between Iran and the US just took a big step toward becoming a real one.
- Going further: "This doesn’t mean war, it will not lead to war, and it doesn’t risk war. None of that. It is war." So writes Andrew Exum, also at the Atlantic. "The United States is now in a hot war with Iran."
- Or not: The fallout might actually be limited, Henry Rome, an analyst with Eurasia Group, tells the Washington Post. "Why would the Soleimani assassination not immediately trigger a limited or even major conflict?" he asks. "The structural factors are powerful." Tehran, already reeling economically from US sanctions, might not want to risk a major conflict. And Trump may not want to escalate further amid a re-election campaign.