On January 8, in retaliation for the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, Iran launched a series of missile strikes against US military bases in Iraq, after which both sides decided to de-escalate the situation and even expressed a readiness to negotiate. Maxim Suchkov, Senior Research Fellow at the MGIMO Centre for International Processes Analysis and Editor of "Al-Monitor" (USA), told the Valdai Club about whether to consider this conflict settled, and whether the policies of the two countries regarding each other had changed.
The current situation is a natural outcome of the policy that the Donald Trump administration has pursued toward Iran over the past few years, from the very beginning of his presidency. In principle, this “soft strangulation” strategy was aimed at gradually boiling the situation inside Iran so that people would rise up and overthrow the ruling regime. In addition, the Americans have taken a number of actions throughout the region – especially in countries that are important for Iran and are part of the so-called “axis of resistance” – to contain its claims to dominance in the region. Recently, the Iranians have taken a series of bold steps, which, in the opinion of the Americans, have weakened their position and strongly moved the “containment threshold” in a way that was not in their favour.
Iran’s designation of the Pentagon and the US Armed Forces as “terrorist organisations” is also a symmetrical and largely symbolic action for domestic consumption, which by and large will not affect anything. However, there are legal aspects: after the recognition of the IRGC as a terrorist organisation, the US military had to follow certain rules of interaction – not to let them get closer to their objects than certain distances and not to negotiate with the IRGC without appropriate permission from above. According to the letter of the law, this could complicate contacts and interaction in general, although Donald Trump had announced the need for US-Iran cooperation in the fight against ISIS.
Both sides seem to come out of this “strange war” with a minimal set of wins: Iran showed that it could challenge the superpower and even attack it, and the USA showed that, despite all the criticism, it really remains a superpower, which of its own free will can kill people whom it considers dangerous to American interests, without any political or other responsibility.