Director, Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative
Director, Iraq Initiative
Director, Future of Iran Initiative
Nonresident Senior Fellow
William F. Wechsler
Director, Rafik Hariri Center & Middle East Programs
As the COVID-19 pandemic dominates world attention, US-Iran tensions are again taking a dangerous turn.
Just two months ago the world was transfixed after the lethal attacks against Americans in Iraq by Iranian-backed forces kicked off a cycle of escalation that resulted in President Trump’s decision to kill Iranian major general Qassem Soleimani. Now, with far less fanfare, that cycle is returning. Americans have been killed once again, and a series of strikes have been made by US forces and Iranian proxies within Iraq, with no immediate sign that the hostilities will abate anytime soon. Iran is trying to force an American withdrawal, and the US is trying to protect its interests and reinforce its red lines. Caught in the middle once again, Iraq is simultaneously confronting a security crisis, a health emergency, and an economic free fall — all without the benefit of a functioning government in Baghdad.
At this precarious moment, what steps is the United States likely to take to combat malign Iranian-supported actions in Iraq, and how will Iraq and Iran respond?