Opinion | Tehran in a tangle1 min read . Updated: 13 Jan 2020, 04:31 PM IST
The Iranian regime may have calculated that a return of popular attention to the presence of US troops in Iraq would serve its interests
Iraq’s official news agency has reported that the country’s al-Balad airbase, about 80km away from Baghdad, was hit by eight Katyusha rockets. While no casualties among the US troops posted there were reported, four Iraqi soldiers have been wounded. It is not clear who shot those rockets, but where else would the needle of suspicion turn but Tehran? Iran is well known for its proxy militias across the region, and many have assumed that these are follow-up reprisal strikes after the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian commander.
Iran’s strikes of last week seemed designed to serve the US a warning of the reach of its firepower. But, if Tehran also had a role in the latest attacks, what might this exercise be aimed at? Could it be a play by Iran’s regime to regain support on “the street", so to speak? After its admission that it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, resulting in 176 deaths, it has been confronted by restive crowds demanding that it give up power. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has spoken of “human error" and made regretful noises, but Iranian protesters refuse to be mollified.
With such circumstances, the Iranian regime may have calculated that a return of popular attention to the presence of US troops in Iraq would serve its interests. So far, we do not know if the attack on al-Balad has shifted the street narrative, but, whether it was a ploy or not, Tehran seems to be getting entangled in a web of its own.