Most people celebrated over the slaying of a man accountable for so many innocent deaths in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. For decades, Qasem Soleimani led the Quds Force in spiteful attacks on blameless citizens, peaceful protestors, American allies, and American personnel. His assassination was a victory to celebrate, but American lives are more in danger than they were before his death.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a designated terrorist organization and has well-established networks and militias across the world. Their agents have carried out attacks and assassinations in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Northern Africa. Americans must not only watch their backs in Middle Eastern countries like the United Arab Emirates or Qatar but also in places like Germany and Argentina. The Islamic Republic sees American officials and American citizens as targets more legitimate than ever. All Americans are prime targets.
The Department of Homeland Security updated the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) to include Iran as a credible terrorist threat within the United States. As noted in one of my previous articles, Iranian agents are among the general American public. These agents can be of Iranian, Iraqi, or Lebanese descent with U.S. citizenship, permanent residency, and tourism ties to the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Customs and Border Protection must work in collaboration with local and state law enforcement agencies to identify possible persons of interest. The Department of State must use its expansive data resources to identify and deny visas to anyone who shall pose a threat to the American homeland.
Soleimani’s daughter, Zeinab, spoke at her father’s funeral in Tehran, where she encouraged Iranians to attack American citizens. She said, “The families of the American soldiers in Western Asia will spend their days waiting for the death of their children.” She and other hardliners in the Islamic Republic continue to encourage radical Iranians to attack Americans. At the same time, there are many ordinary Iranians who refuse to burn or step on American and Israeli flags in Iran. The action Iran took against U.S. military bases was not the end of the retaliation. American officials must stay vigilant of indirect attacks through the Islamic Republic’s proxies. Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence has sleepers in the United States. The U.S. Government has arrested many agents of the Islamic Republic within U.S. borders. As Matthew Levitt said, “Iran’s Quds Force, including Iran’s proxies like Hezbollah, are also a threat to American lives within the homeland.”
U.S. authorities must take additional screening measures to protect American citizens and the homeland. Soleimani’s death left Iranian officials desperate, and desperate regimes are capable of far more dangerous tactics. The Department of Homeland Security should continue to vet people as necessary before allowing them entry into the country. Iran’s methods have not changed, but their maturity has, and that, along with their desperation, makes them dangerous. Iran does not want to fight a direct war with the United States, but they will continue resorting to deathly covert attacks.
Killing Qasem Soleimani was long overdue. The man had enough innocent blood on his hands. The region will eventually be safer, but until then, the Islamic Republic will continue to engage in aggressive behavior and retaliatory measures. The United States must continue to counter Iran’s hybrid warfare beyond the assassination of Soleimani. It must reach out to assist the Iranian people in their fight to counter the Islamic Republic’s oppressive tactics.
As for retaliation, American focus must not only be on the region in the Middle East. There are Iranian sleepers all around the Western Hemisphere, particularly in South and Central America. The Department of Homeland Security must continue to protect the nation’s infrastructure against Iran’s disruptive and destructive cyber-attacks to paralyze the United States. With these precautions, the Islamic Republic will not be successful. To protect the American homeland, the U.S. government must detect and defeat those Iranians who would dare threaten the United States before they reach its shores.
Sheridan Bahar is a second-year graduate student at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington, majoring in Transnational Security. He Possesses social, political, economic, historical, and cultural knowledge of various hate groups internationally with fluency in Farsi, Dari, and Hebrew languages. Sheridan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.