Just three days into the new year, General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force and the architect behind the Islamic Republic’s growing influence in the Middle East, was killed by a drone strike launched by the U.S., leading to retaliatory strikes by Iran on two military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq.
The downing of a commercial flight chartered by Ukrainian International Airlines which killed all 176 passengers on board followed, with the Iranian government taking responsibility for the tragedy, after initially claiming the crash had been caused by a technical malfunction. Reports later confirmed that Iranian officials had accidentally fired two missiles at the plane, having mistaken it for a U.S. jet.
As Iranian citizens took to the streets to protest against the government’s behavior, Iranian security officials once again blocked parts of the internet and engaged in a violent crackdown, which video footage on social media suggested included shooting into crowds of peaceful protesters.
The dramatic, and tragic start to 2020 has left many analysts wondering what else lies in store for Iran, the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, where he focuses on Iranian security and political issues, talks to Kayhan Life about the latest developments on Iran, how the U.S.’s Maximum Pressure Campaign might unfold over the next 12 months, and whether the Islamic Republic will shift its strategy in response to the next phase.