A year after the assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, tensions between the United States and Iran remain high. In the past year, both nations have engaged in heated rhetoric over the events, ranging from attack threats to more U.S. aircraft in the region. In recent days, there have been new allegations claiming that a U.K. security firm and a U.S. airbase in Germany had a role in the assassination of Soleimani, complicating the possibilities of normalising relations.
According to an Al-Jazeera news report, the top prosecutor representing Iran, Ali Alqasimehr, states without evidence that the security services company G4S assisted the United States in the leader’s assassination and his accompanying soldiers. A G4S spokesperson reported that the security firm had “absolutely no involvement in the attack.” The same news report explains that Iranian authorities claim the United States used the Ramstein Airbase in southwestern Germany in the attack.
This airbase serves as the “headquarters for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe” and U.S. drone operations in West Asia in the past years. Additionally, Iran also claims that Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and Britain played a part in the attack, according to Deutsche Welle. Much of this comes at a time where tensions between the United States and Iran remain high, and these claims and behavior will be a major challenge for the first days of the incoming Biden administration is seeking a de-escalation of rhetoric.
Allegations of this nature, including unproven statements, do more harm than good in the current political and international environment. As seen within the past year, any indicator of an attack, true or not, can trigger a response from either side that can have destructive consequences. In the case of Iran, relying on unproven or debunked information will not help its case in seeking its goals inside and outside Interpol. This also damages its credibility and negotiation ability if it seeks to reach a new nuclear deal with the incoming Biden administration or reach a settlement on the Soleimani assassination.
That is not to say that the United States has not contributed to the rise in tensions. While comments from U.S. President Trump make it firm that the United States is ready to defend its interests, Iran will do the same, and both countries must be aware of the current and long-term impacts of this rhetoric in resolving existing and future issues amongst each other. This also applies to American allies that are under Iran’s watch as they will also need to ensure their actions do not provoke tensions. What is clear is that unproven claims from either side will not ease tensions, reduce the possibility of meaningful dialogue regarding Soleimani’s assassination, or set the table for productive negotiations.
Tensions between the United States and Iran are nothing new as they stretch back to the events of the Iranian Revolution of the 1970s. Since then, both nations have engaged in heated disputes over assassinations, nuclear weapons, and involvement in other Middle Eastern affairs. In the latest confrontations that began after the January 3 assassination of Soleimani, allegations range from involvement in those events, assisting the United States in conducting the operation, and the recent claims regarding the use of the airbase and security firm.
Moreover, after doing so in the summer of 2020, Iran has again requested the France-based Interpol to “arrest U.S. President Trump and 47 other American officials” that were involved in the Soleimani attack, according to Al-Jazeera. Interpol rejected this request, but this time, Iran’s leadership hopes that as Trump and his team prepare to leave office, there is a greater likelihood of accountability for the actions, but this remains to be seen. Given the actions of both countries, it is unlikely tensions will ease in the coming months.
As the United States approaches the inauguration of a new administration, if it wants to remedy the currently high tensions with Iran, it must present itself differently from the outgoing administration. Unless sufficiently obvious, rapidly pointing fingers will not help either country as these rapid conclusions can be erroneous. Also, in dealing with baseless claims, the United States need not be aggressively reacting to these, but rather present the facts and be firm about its intentions. Instead of escalating rhetoric and quick threats, it is crucial to focus on the facts, cooperation, and the potential of negotiations, which is more likely to reign in Iran to cooperate. Regardless, Iran will continue to seek avenues to achieve its goals related to Soleimani’s assassination and to be better prepared for a response of any kind, the incoming administration must present itself as such.