Key Points

Trump is still unsure if he wants to leave Iraq. If he does, he’ll validate Soleimani’s strategy and breathe new life into his shadow armies. If he denies Iran that territory and holds the regime accountable for the actions of its proxies, he will have done something that no other president has done since the rise of the Islamic Republic in 1979. He’ll have changed the rules of the game.

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Now is not the time for a victory lap. Nor is it time for threats of another troop withdrawal. Now is the time for new thinking about an old problem. Trump started the process with a surprisingly bold airstrike. He further defended American interests by firmly asserting America’s red line in the face of an Iranian response. But this is far from over. Under new leadership, the Quds Force will be getting back to business, sowing mayhem across the Middle East.

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Should that happen, the world’s leading jihadis will be a giant step closer to realizing their dreams. And a rich and powerful despot in Tehran, now in the twilight of his life, will be consoled by the knowledge that his favorite comrade-in-arms did not die in vain.

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Soleimani was the chief of the Quds Force, the infamous Revolutionary Guards unit responsible for the Islamic Republic’s campaign of expansion and terrorism across the Middle East, especially in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Soleimani was also Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s most trusted, loyal, and capable lieutenant, a true believer in the revolution who expressed his willingness to be “martyred” for the cause.

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Now, Trump has shown that the U.S. is willing to strike back at Iran, and strike hard. What comes next is anyone’s guess, including possible Iranian strikes on Israel or on Saudi Arabia, Iranian strikes on U.S. troops in Iraq, anti-Iranian unrest inside Iraq, and anti-regime unrest within Iran itself, but one thing is already clear beyond any doubt: Iran can no longer expect to kill U.S. citizens and strike U.S. embassies with impunity.

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