President Trump's decision last week to order the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Quds Force commander and second most powerful official in Iran, and his threats over the weekend to bomb Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates, are hard to square with his stated and implied policy goals: To use punishing sanctions to force Iran to renegotiate a 2015 nuclear deal, or leverage that economic pain to foment revolt against Iran's anti-American leaders.
On the nuclear front, "Trump's gambit has effectively backfired," David Sanger and William Broad report at The New York Times. "Trump thought the nuclear deal was flawed because restrictions on Iran would end after 15 years," but "instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday" that those limits are "over after less than five." And America's European allies, who tried mightily to salvage the pact, blame Trump's unilateral withdrawal for today's military brinksmanship and gave Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a "chilly reception" when he called for their support after Soleimani's killing, The Washington Post reports.
Tehran's theocratic leadership also "basked in a surge of nationalist sentiment and anger at home," writes Ishaan Tharoor at The Washington Post. "Less than two months ago, security forces are said to have killed hundreds of Iranian protesters to quell an uprising spurred by the regime’s dysfunctional management of the country’s crippled economy." Now, hundreds of thousands — or even millions — of Iranian are turning out to mourn Soleimani. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wept as he prayed over Soleimani's remains in front of a huge crowd. Soleimani's daughter and his successor both vowed vengeance on America.
"Even the hardliners, the religious hardliners here in this country, could not have thought that so many people would turn up today," CNN's Frederik Pleitgen reported from Tehran on Monday's New Day.
"At a time when his unprecedented sanctions had stirred unrest inside Iran," writes Mohammad Ali Shabani, a researcher at Soas University in London, "the strike on Soleimani, whose status approached that of national icon, will harden popular sentiment against the U.S. while simultaneously shoring up the regime."