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Iran's Face-Saving Response

Iran's retaliation against the US for the killing of General Qassem Soleimani has surprised many observers. 

The prevailing view was that if Iran was going to hit back at all for Soleimani's death, then it was likely going to be an asymmetrical response - through its proxies or in a manner that allowed the Iranian regime to deny involvement.

The missile attacks that hit two US bases in Iraq are different from Iran's usual modus operandi in the sense that missiles evidently came from Iran, and that the regime was upfront right away to claim responsibility for the strikes.

Iran's leadership were under pressure to respond to the killing of their most senior and revered military commander. 

Iran has cultivated a reputation as a regional power that should not be messed around with. This has largely been achieved through the alliances that it has built in the region and the proxy militias that it trains and equips. And most recently, the role it played in ensuring the survival of the Assad regime in Syria as well as the defeat of ISIS in Iraq.

Maybe reputational pressure as well as the need to satisfy its domestic audience, meant that this time Iran felt that it could not hide behind the actions of proxies. 

What is interesting about Iran's missile strikes is that about two dozens missiles were fired, and yet reports coming from all the relevant authorities in the US and Iraq is that there were no casualties or fatalities.

When that many missiles are concentrated in one small area containing several US and Iraqi military personnel and there are no injuries or fatalities, then it is nothing short of miraculous or there is more to it.

There are reports that this was a well calibrated attack by Iran designed for the regime to save face, but without doing what would invite a devastating response from the US. The Pentagon has admitted off the record that the Iraqi government, which has strong ties to Iran, gave the US advance warning of the missiles. This was in addition to the US's own high tech advance warning systems.

Crucially, the missiles are reported to have landed in parts of the camps that do not house personnel or equipment. The ball is now in President Donald Trumps court. (See latest blog post for update on this)

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