Future between U.S., Iran remains unpredictable as both countries claim to de-escalate tensions

NORMAL, Ill. — On Tuesday night the world stood still as reports of missiles hitting a U.S. base in Iraq came in.

Over a dozen missiles were launched at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.

Upon hearing about the missiles launched at the Al Asad and Erbil bases, many feared another war.

WMBD spoke with Associate Professors at Illinois State University who specialize in Middle Eastern Affairs, who say this conflict goes much farther than just the United States and Iran.

The United States has more than 60,000 troops surrounding Iran in the Middle East.

Tensions rose when President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike to kill Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, leader of the Quds force, who Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill) says General Solemani lead a ‘reign of terror for decades.’

“I supported the President in his efforts to take out General Soleimani, General Soleimani was not some peacemaker in the Middle East,” Congressman Davis said.

President Trump addressed the American people Wednesday morning, letting everyone know that no lives were lost after the missiles were launched at the Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.

“As long as I am President of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. Good morning, I’m pleased to inform you, the American people should be extremely grateful and happy. No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and minimal damage was sustained at our military bases. Our great American forces are prepared for anything. Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned, and a very good thing for the world. Those days are over, Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world. We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place. We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper, and take advantage of its enormous, untapped potential.”

President Donald J. Trump | Address to the American People on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020

Congressman Rodney Davis says the Quds forces were established by the Iranian government. He adds it was designated as a terrorist group by the United States government.

“This is somebody who went into places like Syria to prop up Bashar Al Assad, an Iranian interest, and you like at what Bashar Al Assad, the Syrian dictator, has done to his own civilians over the last few years. It’s sickening to see he’s used chemical weapons to kill his own civilians,” Rep. Davis said.

Congressman Darin LaHood (R-Ill) agrees with Rep. Davis, saying Wednesday that the President made a good decision at taking out General Soleimani.

“The President exercised bold leadership last week, I think you’ve seen that with his philosophy, ‘peace through strength.’ Taking out Soleimani was the right thing to do. He was a terrorist with blood on his hands, personally responsible for over 600 servicemen dead,” Rep. LaHood said.

Congressman LaHood praised Pres. Trump’s address Wednesday morning, saying it gave a lot of comfort to the American people.

“This morning, the President reassured the country that this was the right decision to make. To have all of his military there sent a strong message that this behaviour will not be tolerated. Let’s remember, all through the fall of last year, the President exercised restraint. Soleimani was responsible for taking out half of the Saudi Arabian oil fields, taking out our drone, killing an American and contractors,” Rep. LaHood said.

Congressman LaHood said Pres. Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani is going to save many lives going forward.

“There was an imminent threat coming in the next several weeks against U.S. servicemen in Iraq. It had to be stopped, he made the right decision that will make America safer,” Rep. LaHood said.

The killing of Soleimani was answered four days later with a missile strike on two U.S. military bases in Iraq.

This had some Americans asking; is war ahead? Congressman Davis doesn’t think so.

“I don’t see that happening. I see a defensive posture from the United States of America,” Rep. Davis said.

“I don’t think you can anticipate a World War Three with this Iranian, United States skirmish that we’ve seen over the last few weeks. A World War Three, if you look back at American history, would have to be something much much different than where we are today,” Congressman Davis added.

Though this wasn’t the beginning of recent tension between the countries, on New Year’s Eve, protestors attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

“The United States is not gonna stand for our embassies being attacked. I’m certainly glad that the Iranians, and the missiles they fired yesterday, lead to zero casualties. I hope the President’s words, and the Iranian Foreign Minister’s words of de-escalation are taken into consideration by both countries,” Congressman Davis said.

WMBD spoke with Dr. Ali Riaz, a political science professor at Illinois State University, who says if we do see war between the U.S. and Iran it will not be like wars we’ve seen in the past.

“I don’t think a war is imminent unless the United States, particularly the Trump Administration, decides to escalate it. If we are talking about war means two armies facing each other on some piece of land, that is very unlikely between the United States and Iran,” Dr. Riaz said.

But Dr. Riaz says an unconventional kind of war is possible.

“That means there are going to be proxy-wars in the Middle East, and possibly beyond.  Particularly when you are looking at Iran and Iran’s ability to mobilize various kinds of militia that they have supported in the previous decade or so,” Dr. Riaz said.

A proxy war is a war instigated by a major power that does not itself become involved.

Dr. Yusuf Sarfati, Associate Professor of Politics and Government at Illinois State University, says the tensions go beyond U.S. and Iranian borders.

“It is part of a larger struggle in the Middle East for regional hegemony between Iran and Saudi Arabia that has been going on for a long time,” Dr. Sarfati said.

Dr. Sarfati says there is a much bigger picture to the tensions going on in the Middle East.

“The fight against ISIS which has been playing out on Iraqi territory for a long time, but also containing Iran, which is a power which has been seeing itself against the United States and against U.S. Imperialism,” Dr. Sarfati said.

He adds the uncertainty between the U.S. and the Middle East stretches back decades.

“After the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the U.S. had invested interest to not only do nation-building but also to make sure Iraq stays as a U.S. ally and not drift towards Iranian influence because Iran and Iraq both have a majority Shiite populations.  What happened in the most recent developments as well, it was a Shiite militia that attacked a U.S. embassy,” Dr. Sarfati said.

Dr. Sarfati, born in Istanbul, Turkey, believes because of the relationship between the United States and countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Israel, tensions could actually spread throughout the entire region.

“Now, The United States sees itself as the police of the region, and there are a number of different reasons for that.  Of course during the Cold War, the region was seen as kind of a place the United States wanted to contain the Soviet Union, and Isreal, an ally of the United States, is in the region,” Dr. Sarfait said.

“That has been manifesting themselves in different countries particularly in Syria where each of the countries is supporting different groups and militias.  But also in Iraq and other places,” Dr. Sarfati added.

While these tensions are happening overseas, Dr. Riaz says it will have effects on Americans right here at home.

“It has already affected the oil prices and it will continue to do so. It is creating uncertainty with respect to the flow of oil. Already we saw that happened previously as well because of the sanctions placed on Iran as well,” Dr. Riaz said.

But while oil is extremely to the world’s economy, Dr. Sarfati says the U.S. has found other ways to not be solely dependent on one source of energy.

“The United States has been purchasing oil from the region in good quantities, people in the United States value fuel prices and that is important to the U.S. economy. But since the Obama-administration, the U.S. has been investing in different kinds of energy sources so it is not really total dependence on oil.  So I wouldn’t cast the U.S.’ involvement in the region solely on economic interest,” Dr. Sarfati said.

Dr. Riaz says it is important to pay attention to what’s going on around the world, because even if something happens thousands of miles away, it will affect us here someway, somehow.

Congressman Davis says the future between the U.S. and Iran is unpredictable, but he says now that General Soleimani has been taken out, American soldiers and American citizens are much safer.

But until further notice, Rep. Davis says troops in the Middle East have been on high-alert and will continue to be ready for anything.

“They would’ve been on high-alert anyway because of recent attacks in places like the Green Zone in Baghdad. Let’s not forget, Iranian-backed militias attacked and burned parts of our United States embassy just a few weeks ago,” Rep. Davis said.

WMBD reached out to Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill) who released the following statement.

“Last night, missiles rained down upon U.S. military bases in Iraq. Today, 15,000 more American troops are serving in the Middle East than six months ago. These facts demand that Congress exercise its constitutional oversight authority and ask tough questions: How did targeting Qasem Soleimani further our long-term security in the region? Are we safer today than we were before his death? I did not receive satisfactory answers to these questions at today’s classified briefing,” Rep. Bustos said.

“There appears to be an opportunity to de-escalate this conflict. While no one mourns Soleimani’s death, no one wants another protracted war in the Middle East. For our troops serving in harm’s way, please know that I admire your service and stand with you. But also know that this Administration owes you—and the American people—a thoughtful, strategic foreign policy with Iran that secures our homeland and protects our troops and diplomats serving overseas. I will continue to press the Administration for answers,” Bustos added.

Rep. Bustos took to Twitter after the missile strikes to offer her support for American troops.

Rep. Kinzinger released a statement to his website Wednesday promoting unity in the country.

“America is a beacon of light around the world, standing for freedom and justice. We stand for the oppressed, for those who don’t have a voice. And when we stand united, our message is that much stronger. Last night, Iran fired missiles at Al-Asad and Erbil Airbases in Iraq, where our U.S. troops are stationed. This was an escalation by the Iranians, and a misguided one at that. As a nation, we must stand together in support of our military men and women, and their loved ones. This is not a time for political bias and political posturing; this is a time of unity and showing our support to our heroes in uniform.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger | (R-Illinois)

We will continue to monitor the situation between the United States and Iran.