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Iran-US Relationship Faces New Hurdles Amid History Of Antagonism

Chris McGrath
Getty Images
People hold posters showing the portrait of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and chant slogans during a protest outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

The assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani has brought renewed attention to the complex relationship between the United States and Iran. For decades, there have been major conflicts between Iran and the U.S. Over the past two years, this adversarial relationship has intensified and the future remains unclear.

"There’s both the question of this kind of long-term ideological cold war which Iran has with really the rest of the world ... and then there’s the shorter-run conflict which is happening between the Trump administration and Iran," says Shale Horowitz, a political science professor at UW-Milwaukee. 

READ: How The World Is Reacting To The U.S. Assassination Of Iran's Qassem Soleimani

Despite Soleimani being a high-level official in the Iranian government, almost no one in the U.S. Congress was informed that the attack would take place. Still, Horowitz believes Soleimani's execution falls into a larger pattern of "escalating moves" by the Iranian government over the last year.

"There was the attack on shipping in the Persian Gulf, there were the attacks on the Saudi oil fields, and there have been — just within the last few months — 11 attacks, that the U.S. military counts, on U.S. military bases in Iraq," he explains. 

Many people still question the timing of the attack. President Trump is facing an impeachment hearing and a potentially difficult election, which some believe was the motivation for killing Soleimani.

Amid a flurry of tweets about the situation in Iran, Trump suggested that Congress should end the impeachment trial, "when we have so many important matters pending." In 2011 and 2012, Trump suggested that then-President Obama would attempt to start a war in Iran to secure reelection. But Horowitz says the assassination of the general is a result of international, not domestic, tensions. 

"What he stated as his 'red line' was American casualties. So this particular escalation began when one of these attacks on a U.S. base wounded American soldiers and killed an American contractor ... Then there was the attack on the embassy," Horowitz explains.

Basically, Horowitz says the killing of Soleimani is a message that the U.S. is going to escalate in response to Iran and that the U.S. isn't "just going to take these pin prick attacks."

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.