The entire region is bracing itself for what Iran will do in response to the deadly strike that took out their men. There are several possible Iranian answers to Solemani’s assassination, including not to do anything for the time being to maintain some level of plausible deniability for anything they want to do in the future. Iranians will respond on their own timetable. They are big fans of being patient. The country could do a lot of damage. Here are some potential targets for retaliation by Iran:

  1. U.S. military assets:  The United States has troops currently staged throughout the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, including in Iraq, Syria, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Since the 1980s, Iran has armed and trained a web of Shiite militias in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, staging lethal attacks on American targets and allies. The proxies allow Iran to exert military and political influence at relatively low cost, while forcing adversaries to think twice before launching a direct attack on Iranian soil. Iran wields extensive political influence in predominantly Shiite Iraq, where Soleimani's Quds Force built up and armed militias that targeted U.S. troops. Iran's partners in Iraq could stage attacks on the 5,000 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the American consulate in the northern city of Erbil, Americans working in the oil industry or the hundreds of contractors who support U.S. troops and maintain the Baghdad Embassy compound. In Syria, where a small U.S. force is deployed, Iran has a large contingent of Shiite fighters backed by Iranian Revolutionary Guard advisers who could target the American troops or their Kurdish allies.
  2. U.S. embassies: Although heavily fortified in the Middle East, U.S. embassies are a prominent projection of American global power and have been attacked by Iran before. Only a few days before Soleimani's killing, as U.S.-Iran tensions were escalating, the U.S. Embassy was attacked by pro-Iran protesters in Baghdad — the same city where Soleimani was later struck. Trump on Twitter blamed Iran for "orchestrating" the attack. The storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 with Americans taken hostage for more than a year became a powerful symbol of Iran's revolution and the end of U.S.-Iranian diplomatic relations. Several years later, Iran and its proxies were implicated in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.
  3. Persian Gulf: Apart from attacks by proxies, Iran could use its growing  missile and drone arsenal to inflict damage on America's Persian Gulf allies by hitting oil facilities and tankers at sea. If Iran wanted to take more drastic action, it could fulfill its threat to effectively shut down oil shipping through the Strait of Hormuz by attacking tankers and planting mines.
  4. U.S. Allies: Iran could hit one of America's regional allies, many of whom happen to be enemies of Iran anyway, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.In Lebanon, Israel's neighbor, Iran helped create the Shiite militia Hezbollah, which has grown into the country's single most powerful military and political force. Hezbollah could launch attacks on American interests in Lebanon or renew its rocket attacks in neighboring Israel. In Saudi Arabia, a September 2018 attack on a key hub of the kingdom's oil infrastructure was blamed by the U.S. and European governments on Iran, highlighting Tehran's ability to penetrate Saudi air defenses with precision.
  5. American citizens:  Another potential response would be for Iran's proxies to capture Americans overseas, particularly in places such as Iraq or Afghanistan. In Iraq, the U.S. Embassy has already told all Americans to leave the country immediately in an implicit acknowledgement of that possibility. In Lebanon, Hezbollah's significant control over the airport and certain regions of the country could create more turf where Americans could be vulnerable, security experts said. And Hezbollah's reach isn't limited to the Middle East: Terrorism analysts have tracked the group's planting of organizational roots across Africa and Latin America, and to a lesser extent in the United States.
  6. Cyberwarfare: Iran will likely employ its growing cyberwarfare prowess to strike at the United States directly, former U.S. officials say. But staging a terrorist attack on U.S. soil presents a tougher challenge for Iran, and it could take some time to organize and plan. Iran has really been upping its A-game as far as its cyber capabilities and to be able to use those cyber capabilities to conduct espionage, to conduct intelligence gathering, as well as to conduct mayhem.

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