By Azriel Bermant, published in Fathom, January 2020
It was with deep sadness and a profound sense of loss that I heard of the passing of Emily. It had been a privilege for me to work with Emily at the Institute for National Security Studies between 2012 and 2015. Her intellectual dynamism and passionate convictions shone through in everything she did, whether it was in her writing on Iran’s nuclear programme or in the various arms control forums that she hosted at INSS. For so many Israelis, discussion on the topic of arms control and nuclear proliferation is limited largely to regional threats: in particular, the nuclear threat from Iran. Emily tried to create greater awareness of the global problems relating to nuclear proliferation. Her expertise and scholarship went well beyond the issue of Iran. She wrote prolifically on a range of other issues, including North Korea’s nuclear programme, US-Russian arms control and the efforts to achieve a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
1. As leader of the feared Quds force, Soleimani, was arguably the second most powerful man in Iran, after its Supreme Leader. He was responsible for the expansion of Iran's military muscle and influence throughout the Middle East. His elimination deals a huge blow to Iran.
2. And yet Iran is a wounded animal, devastated by economic sanctions and damaged by angry protests both in Iran itself and in Lebanon and Iraq. It is this which makes Iran so dangerous; there are countless ways in which the Iranians can wreak mayhem throughout the region. Of course, the counter argument is that the short-term turmoil is a price worth paying in the long-term.
3. The US president has publicly taken responsibility for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani. A shambolic administration shooting from the hip. How does this tally with Trump's plan to withdraw the US from the region? On the contrary, this will suck the US into the quagmire.
4. Will the assassination of Soleimani deter Iran as the United States and its allies hope? I fear not. The danger is that a weakened Iran will see that the blow to its prestige demands a significant escalation.
5. It is likely that Iran will also target Israel as part of its response against the US and its allies. The threat from Iran has been Netanyahu's obsession from day one, and this is the moment he has been waiting for. The Iran threat will be exploited by Netanyahu as a means to divert attention from his legal predicament and as a rallying cry for the creation of a national unity coalition government. Israel's opposition leader Benny Gantz is in an unenviable position. He runs the risk of looking unstatemanlike if he refuses to join such a government. However, a national unity coalition government would be a trap for Israel's opposition, and a means for Netanyahu to keep himself in power.
6. The Trump administration has a major headache with a wounded Iran that is liable to strike out. But there is another dangerous challenge on the horizon: a nuclear North Korea which is primed for confrontation with the United States. How will Trump cope with both of these challenges? Welcome to 2020!
Dr Azriel Bermant
Foreign Policy and International Security Analyst, Historian, Lecturer, Author