'They thought Trump wouldn't respond during an election period - and were wrong'

Middle East expert Efraim Inbar: The Iranians reserve the right to retaliate in the future, but the US has an extensive list of targets.

Shimon Cohen ,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

The question of the Iranian response to the elimination of Qassem Soleimani by the Americans has not yet been fully answered. In an interview with Arutz Sheva on Sunday, Prof. Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, presented his view on the subject, in the wake of the reports of some Israeli involvement in gathering intelligence for the operation.

According to Prof. Inbar, Iranians should not be surprised by the possibility of such cooperation between the US and Israel, but they also know that the US has significant intelligence depth in Iraq, so things are not dependent on Israel.

"There is no doubt that there is ongoing cooperation between Israel and the US in the field of intelligence, but I am not sure that this incident is an example of that. It should be recognized that the Americans have been sitting in Iraq for quite a few years and have opened a vast intelligence infrastructure there. Moreover, the hatred for Iran and Soleimani among Sunni and Shiite circles in Iraq cannot be ignored, and finally the Americans have a lot of money to buy intelligence, so while I am aware of the rumors of providing intelligence on Israel's part, we should be humble and know that the Americans know how to impressively collect information in Iraq," said Inbar.

As for an analysis of the US-Iranian conflict, Professor Inbar said he understands that the Iranian retaliation which did not result in American casualties does not satisfy them, but "they understood from Trump's reactions that killing soldiers is impossible but damage to American property is possible, and that is what they did. They reserve the right to harm Americans in the future and they do not hide their strategic goal of getting the Americans out of the Middle East."

As for the continuation of the confrontation, Inbar noted that "the Iranians are patient and should not respond immediately. They need to organize and see how the Americans have penetrated their organizations and obtained very accurate intelligence and, in the meantime, they are also engaged with internal issues, but they will certainly respond when they deem it appropriate."

As for the American side, Inbar pointed out that in eliminating Soleimani, the Americans signaled "that they are ready to strike important figures in the military and political hierarchy, and this creates a degree of deterrence on the part of Iran, but an escalation is still possible against American targets and against Iranian targets, which the president hinted at when he mentioned that there are 52 Iranian sites that could be harmed if Iran did not behave properly."

The confrontation with the Iranians comes during an election period for the US president, and that too has implications. "An election period has significance for the status of the president. An American president can't be perceived as weak during an election period. He has to flex his muscles, so the Iranian assumption that Trump would not act during an election period is wrong and he proved it. It depends on the degree of Iranian provocation, but I suppose Trump will respond to an Iranian attack on American targets while exercising caution not to go to a war he doesn't want."

Asked whether this means an American response also to an attack on a US ally, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, Professor Inbar opined that the answer to this question is no. "We have already seen that Americans are not responding to attacks in Saudi Arabia or the seizing of ships of US allies. Everyone has to take care of himself."




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