Iranian expert at Tech weighs in on Middle East

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A U.S. drone strike that killed top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani will complicate Iraqi politics tremendously, said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, an internationally recognized expert on Iran and Middle Eastern politics at Virginia Tech.

“The killing of Soleimani will undoubtedly cause Shiite militias in Iraq to stage more attacks on American forces to avenge his killing and that of the deputy head of Popular Mobilization Forces Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis,” Boroujerdi said.

As head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, Soleimani was considered the architect of Tehran’s proxy conflicts in the Middle East and a high value target for American forces in the region. Boroujerdi predicts his death will likely cause the Iranian regime to seek more maximalist goals in terms of its Iraqi interests.

“The cause of recent Iraqi protesters demanding the end of corruption and provision of better services will now be overshadowed by the unfolding repercussions of Soleimani’s assassination and the grandiose dynamics of the U.S.-Iranian rivalry in Iraq,” the professor said.

The success of this military operation will certainly cause political fallout for the United States, according to Borojerdi. “By reducing the complexity of Iraqi politics to Iranian manipulations, the Americans have surely made a grave analytical mistake. They may have physically eliminated a prominent enemy while handing Iran, on a silver platter, a major political victory in Iraq. Also, Iranian retaliation for Soleimani’s death is extremely likely.”

Boroujerdi is an internationally recognized expert on Iran and Middle Eastern politics and the director of Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

He has written and contributed to a number of books on Iranian society and politics, including “Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The Tormented Triumph of Nativism” (Syracuse University Press, 1996) and “Postrevolutionary Iran: A Political Handbook” (Syracuse University Press, 2018).

He has also provided insight and commentary to a number national and international media outlets, including the Associated Press, the LA Times, NPR, the New York Times, Reuters, Spiegel, and the Washington Post, and is a regular commentator on a number of Persian broadcasting networks.

“These escalating tensions do not necessarily mean war is inevitable. A tit for tat escalating war in the Middle East is the last thing the Trump Administration wants in an election year. Their Iranian adversaries are also prudent enough to know they can’t wage a war when state coffers are empty and their citizenry is quite alienated,” Boroujerdi said.