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Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani was an implacable enemy of the United States who was responsible for hundreds of American deaths, as well as countless atrocities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. His death in a drone strike was being cheered Friday by U.S. allies and progressive forces across the region, from Israelis and Saudis to the pro-reform demonstrators of Beirut and Baghdad. That, however, doesn’t mean that President Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate him was wise, or that it will ultimately benefit U.S. interests.

The consequences of the strike are unpredictable, but there is no denying the risk that the United States will be pulled more deeply into the Middle East and its conflicts.

It’s certainly possible that the killing will have the effect of deterring further Iranian attacks on Americans, such as the rocket strike that killed a U.S. contractor at an Iraqi base, or the assault by Iranian-backed militias on the embassy in Baghdad. The loss of Soleimani might disorient and demoralize the militia forces he steered. The Trump administration is clearly hoping Tehran will absorb the blow and retreat.

But Iran might choose to strike back, if not immediately then in coming days and weeks. Does the administration have a clear goal?

When Trump took office, Iran’s nuclear program was quiescent and its threats to U.S. interests manageable. He pulled out of the treaty that had limited Iran’s nuclear activity, and he ratcheted up sanctions against the regime. He took sides in a regional battle between an intolerant Sunni regime in Saudi Arabia and an intolerant Shiite regime in Iran. Now, even as short- and longterm threats from Russia, China and North Korea require urgent attention, the United States finds itself in an ever tenser confrontation with Iran. Trump has yet to offer any explanation of why this is in America’s strategic interest.

Print Headline: OTHERS SAY No clear goal

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