Less than a week after the drone strike, on Jan. 8, more than a dozen Iranian ballistic missiles hit Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s western Anbar province and a base in Erbil in the country’s north. There were no deaths.
The death of Soleimani, revered as a hero in much of Iran, prompted three days of nationwide mourning across the country. And while Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised the retaliatory attack as a “slap on the face” to the U.S., he said it was “not enough,” suggesting further action.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards vowed “severe revenge” on the U.S. and experts warned of Iranian-led attacks on U.S. military bases and energy facilities in the region, cyberattacks and potential assaults via Iran’s numerous proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and beyond. But confrontation between the two adversaries has been relatively quiet since, at least compared with the previous year — something some experts attribute to the coronavirus crisis, which has engulfed both countries. By late February, Iran had become the Middle East’s epicenter of the disease.
Last year saw the U.S. accuse Iran of blowing up multiple foreign tankers in the Persian Gulf, the Iranian downing of a U.S. drone, and more sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic by the Trump administration as the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal moves ever closer to collapse. Tehran has denied involvement in the tanker attacks.
Iran has announced numerous steps to roll back its adherence to the Obama-era deal, meant to curb its nuclear program in exchange for economic relief, ever since Trump withdrew the U.S. from it in 2018.
Washington and Tehran have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1980.