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What Does Suleimani’s Death Change?

The targeted killing by the United States of one of Iran's top military leaders represents a significant symbolic defeat for the Iranian regime, but it does not augur all-out war. After all, Iran and the US have already been at war for decades, and neither side has an interest in an uncontrolled military escalation now.

TEL AVIV – We no longer live in an era in which wars are officially declared. The US drone strike that killed Qassem Suleimani, the charismatic commander of Iran’s Quds Force, is but one landmark event in a multiyear, multi-front war between the US and its allies and Iran and its many proxies.

Over the course of this undeclared war, the parties have used tactics ranging from targeted killings and cyber attacks to economic sanctions and destruction of infrastructure. In February 2008, a joint Israeli-American operation killed Imad Mughniyeh, the chief of staff and second in command of Hezbollah, Iran’s formidable proxy in Lebanon. (Suleimani was actually standing beside Mughniyeh at the time.) Later, Israel allegedly assassinated four Iranian nuclear scientists, and then targeted Iran’s nuclear facilities with a malicious computer virus (most likely through a joint operation with the US).

For its part, Iran has long treated Jewish communities abroad as legitimate targets. In 1994, an Iranian-backed squad bombed a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, leaving 85 dead and hundreds more wounded. And Suleimani himself is believed to have organized the 2012 suicide bombing on a passenger bus transporting Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria.

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