World

US says it has deterred Iran from further attacks; experts disagree

WASHINGTON US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday that the US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general had restored credibility to the US threat to Teheran to restrain itself militarily.

"I believe we have restored a level of deterrence with them," he said.

But Washington security analysts say it is far from certain that Teheran has been deterred from further attacks on the United States and its allies, and that it might not be long before it challenges President Donald Trump again.

In the short run, tensions could ease after Iran retaliated for Major-General Qassem Soleimani's death last week by firing 12 ballistic missiles at two US bases in Iraq, causing damage but killing no one.

But that is "just the beginning", said Middle East security analyst at the Centre for a New American Security Kaleigh Thomas. Maj-Gen Soleimani's death "has definitely changed the tone of tensions going forward", she said.

"They are going to be planning strategically, investing in ways to inflict pain on the US."

For effective deterrence, Ms Thomas said the White House lacks a coherent message that Teheran can make sense of - what response it can expect from the US to what provocative actions - as well as a backchannel to communicate, like previous administrations had.

"If we are reading two different books, something is gonna go wrong," added Ms Thomas.

Teheran might now be tentative about reacting but is "motivated to act and find ways to inflict pain upon the US".

Former US senior diplomat Nicolas Burns said it was "far too early" to declare success in delivering a credible threat message to Teheran.

"Iran has a brutal history of using proxy forces to attack the US and others," he said. "They could well do that in the coming weeks or months." - AFP

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