The Iranians really do have alternative industries to fall back on and a significant domestic capacity, as well as the ability to leverage their relationships with several of their neighboring states to try to muddle through economic adversity. Countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, some of the Central Asian republics and, of course, Syria, elsewhere across the region — it does have a reach that goes beyond that of the U.S. Treasury Department.
In neither case was the ultimate, explicit goal ‘regime change,’...But there was a kind of theory of the case under Obama that engagement could lead to the sort of fundamental changes in Iranian policy, almost irrespective of the character of the regime, that the U.S. had been seeking since 1979.
[The strike targeting Abdul Reza Shahlai] suggests a mission with a longer planning horizon and a larger objective, and it really does call into question why there was an attempt to explain this publicly on the basis of an imminent threat.
Soleimani himself has long been designated as a terrorist. He has been the foremost adversary for American efforts to try to promote stability, to try to ensure independent government rather than puppet government or other powers.
This is an intensely dangerous moment, but as always with Iran, we should be wary of hyperbolic predictions...Tehran is well practiced at calibrating retaliation around its real interests, which ultimately concern regime survival and targeting its reprisals with deliberation and precision.
An amorphous, unpredictable movement that is fiercely estranged from the Islamic Republic represents an acute vulnerability for Tehran, especially at a time when key political transitions, like succession, loom large...The regime can maintain and even intensify its violent repression of protestors. But the system’s legitimacy rests on some foundational claim to popular support...Routine reliance on fierce crackdowns, applied across the country, will further erode the coherence of the system and compound the challenges facing the current leadership.