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

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.  

Quoting Boroujerdi

“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. 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 success of this military operation will certainly cause political fallout for the United States. 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.”

“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.”

About Boroujerdi

An internationally recognized expert on Iran and Middle Eastern politics, Mehrzad Boroujerdi is the director of Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Boroujerdi 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 provided insight and commentary to a number national and international media outlets, including the Associated Press, LA Times, NPR, New York Times, Reuters, Spiegel, and Washington Post, and is a regular commentator on a number of Persian broadcasting networks.

Schedule an interview 

Contact Ceci Leonard at ceciliae@vt.edu or 540-357-2500.