The Sunday Magazine

A dangerous new phase in the U.S.-Iran conflict but 'all-out war' unlikely: security expert

The U.S. assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani has the entire region on edge, while the rhetoric on all sides becomes more bellicose. British security expert Paul Rogers discusses the escalating conflict and its broader security and geopolitical implications.
Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, at the 2016 annual rally commemorating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, in Tehran, Iran. (Ebrahim Noroozi/The Associated Press)

It has all sounded like the beating of the drums of war: the assassination of a powerful military general, the promises of harsh vengeance, more troops massing while foreign civilians flee.

The US killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani – the mastermind behind Iran's many operations throughout the Middle East – has the whole world on edge.

Maybe it's the times we live in, or maybe the events of this week have truly ratcheted up the threat to global peace and security. Either way, people around the world have been seized by a sense of doom, and hashtags about World War III are making the rounds. 

In the midst of such anxiety about where the world might be headed next, The Sunday Edition's Michael Enright spoke to Paul Rogers, to reflect on the meanings and implications of the U.S.-Iran conflict.

Paul Rogers is Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University in Britain. (Twitter/Paul Rogers)

Paul Rogers is an internationally renowned expert on matters of conflict and security. He's an Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University in Britain and the Global Security Consultant with the Oxford Research Group. His most recent book is called Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins.

"This is unparalleled," Rogers said about the repercussions of Soleimani's assassination. 

"You've had an awful lot of journalistic hype over the last 48 hours, but I have to say it's justified. Soleimani was hugely significant in many different ways."

Rogers said that while the possibility of a direct war between the United States and Iran can't be ruled out, a heightened proxy war is far more likely.

"The people around Trump do not want an all out war with Iran. They know they could defeat Iran militarily pretty quickly. But what would follow then would be really far more difficult to predict.

"And on the Iranian side ... they have to respond and they will respond, but it's much more likely to be through what they would call irregular or hybrid war. And it would involve much more commonly proxies.… I think it's pretty unlikely there will be a sudden attack by Iran."

Iranians tear up a US flag during a demonstration in Tehran on January 3, 2020 following the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Major General Qasem Soleimani in a US strike on his convoy at Baghdad international airport. (ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

Ultimately, it is only through non-military means that seemingly intractable conflicts like this one can be resolved, Rogers said. 

"You have to go right back to the fundamental causes ... but it's not in the nature of the military industrial complex to do this. It doesn't very often happen in military think tanks.

"I think if there's one thing that may come out of this, sadly, is a further recognition that there are many conflicts in the world that cannot be solved by military means. You've got to look for other solutions. Now that is very difficult because you have military machines in so many countries that are basically very powerful and very profitable."

To hear the full interview, click 'listen' above. 


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