U.S. President Donald Trump said in a televised speech on Tuesday that Iran's attack on an Iraqi military base with U.S. troops in Iraq did not cause casualties on the U.S. side, and that the United States would impose new economic sanctions on Iran, but was also willing to cooperate with the Iraqi side on common interests. The remarks put a brake on the escalating U.S.-Iranian situation over the past few days, but also raised the question: what was the purpose of his order to kill Iranian General Suleimani a few days ago? Has the goal been achieved now?
Retired Gen. Petraeus, a former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, read this in an interview, saying Trump may be trying to \"rebuild deterrence\" by killing Suleimanis. Previously, the United States accused Iran of being responsible for such incidents as the attack on Saudi oil fields and the siege of the US embassy in Iraq, but has not acted. The killing of Suleimani was a sharp US message to Iran that the US would not tolerate such provocations.
Thus, the killing of Suleimani was as if it had been a well-planned psychological battle for months. In the concept of US military psychological warfare, any military action has the potential psychological significance to influence foreign audiences. The killing of Sleimani would clearly have a strong psychological effect on American opponents, including Iran. But is this really a psychological battle? Or is it a successful psychological battle?
From the selection of strike targets, it is a common method to kill the enemy leaders to paralyze the other side's command and form a deterrent effect on the enemy. But this time the u. s. military will choose surimani as the target, but there are some problems. Because Suleimani is an important political and military figure in Iran, he is so influential among Iranians that killing him is tantamount to declaring war on Iran.
You know, the effects and consequences of the killing of a sovereign state's high-ranking military chief are totally different from the killing of leaders of terrorist organizations such as bin Laden or Baghdadi. In response to Iran's retaliation, Washington should be reluctant to engage in a full-scale war with Iran and the forces it supports, but it has made the same choice as declaring war on Suleimani as a target.
From the judgment of the target audience, the success of the psychological war depends on the careful analysis and grasp of the psychology and emotion of the target audience. The United States has seen recent economic pressures in Iran, especially when people marched in the streets for reasons such as economic weakness and dissatisfaction with their own living conditions, so it believes that Iranian support for the government will no longer be as high as it was in the war between Iran and Iran decades ago, and that the Iranian regime will be wary of retaliating against the US strike. But in practical terms, Americans are clearly misjudged. After Suleimani was killed, Iran showed great indignation and solidarity with the United States, and its national cohesion was greatly enhanced by American violence.
From the degree of realization of the expected effect, the success of psychological warfare ultimately depends on whether or not to achieve the intended goal of psychological warfare. If washington's move is to stabilize the chaos in the middle east by fighting iran and consolidate the gains of the iraq war and the afghan war, then the result is iran's vengeance has soared, iraq's anti-american sentiment has soared, and the iraqi parliament has even passed a resolution to let american troops withdraw, which is probably not the american side's original wish. If the operation was intended to deter iran and its agents, developments following mr sulimani's killing suggest that both iran and other middle east anti-american forces seem to have stepped up their rhetoric and even planned action against mr sulimani's assassination. This is clearly not the purpose of Washington's "deterrence operation.”
Therefore, whether from the choice of the target, the psychological analysis of the target audience or the degree of achievement of the expected effect, killing Suleimani is not a successful psychological battle, but is counterproductive.
In addition to the failure as a \"psychological war \", in legal terms, the killing of Suleimani was also criticized for the nature of the assassination in violation of international law. While Iran has won international sympathy for its public opinion, the United States has pushed itself further to the antipathy. Psychologically, the move has brought America's citizens into the biggest panic since 9\/11. In part, the initiative shifted to Iran from the moment the killing of Suleimani was put into practice. After retaliating against the U.S. military base in Iraq, the Iranian military did not \"de-alert \", as Trump said, but kept the possibility of further retaliation. No matter how powerful the US may be, is it really ready to respond to the uncertain timing, uncertain location, and uncertain targets that Iran and other anti-American forces may take?
The first two US administrations wanted to do what they didn't dare, but this one did. Many analysts believe the killing of suleymani is politically significant for the current president's re-election, but it is more of a lingering security concern for american citizens, especially overseas personnel and troops. Psychological warfare is a planned action aimed at changing the feelings, attitudes, opinions, and behavior of the implementers by delivering specific information to their opponents. In these ways, Washington's operation is clearly miscalculated and reckless. The killing of Suleimani not only failed to change his opponent's hostile attitude, but instead strengthened his opponent's will to fight. More analysts have questioned the fact that the operation ended up only at the expense of the American people's security, and that it brought itself and the American people into great uncertainty with a seemingly certain action. After the Iranian missile attack on the U.S. military base in Iraq, judging by the anxiety and concern of U.S. domestic opinion, it now seems that Iran has fought a psychological war against the United States, and the effect is good. (The author is a professor at the University of National Defence)