How can the Islamic Republic respond to such a blow? After months of renewed tension with Washington and its allies, an American drone has deprived Iran of one of its most precious officers. Ghassem Soleimani, 62, had dug the path of Iranian influence from Baghdad to Beirut through Damascus, and all the way to Yemen. He is no longer, and in the streets of Tehran, long processions of supporters of the regime draped in black salute his "Martyrdom" while three days of national mourning have been decreed.
On Saturday, Tehran's response was summed up in one word: " Revenge. " This is the term used by the Iranian National Security Council which met urgently and, exceptionally, in the presence of the supreme guide Ali Khamenei after the attack. Revenge will be implemented "At the right time and in the right place" and the "United States regime" will be held responsible for all of the consequences of the assassination.
Is the Islamic Republic procrastinating? For Tehran, to do nothing would be to lose all credibility with its allies and to prove Washington right. "It is a declaration of war. The question is not whether there will be reprisals, but when ", said Ali Vaez, Iranian file manager at the International Crisis Group: " One can also wonder whether they will be direct or indirect, against American interests or against Washington's allies? Directly by Iranian forces or via Tehran allies? In Iraq or elsewhere in the region? "
The researcher underlines that the risks of errors of appreciation are extremely high on both sides. Iran may consider that a moderate reaction will avoid a new American escalation or, on the contrary, strike even harder by betting one last time on the avowed aversion of the American president to distant conflicts. Everything would then depend on the American reaction: reduction of tensions or open conflict with incalculable implications? The United States has already announced it will send an additional 3,500 troops to the Middle East.
Whatever happens, the assassination marks a turning point in the confrontation that has taken place between the United States, their allies and Tehran since the American exit, in 2018, from the Iranian nuclear agreement of 2015. The policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran then decided by Washington, hardened in spring 2019 by the strengthening of economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, had been confronted with a policy of "Maximum strength" on the part of Tehran in the region, coupled with a gradual and regular disengagement from the Islamic Republic from its obligations under the nuclear agreement.