Iran Retaliation Early Warning
January 9, 2020
Predata has been cited in the press for providing customers early warning for Iran’s retaliation against the United States for killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. Predata had already alerted customers to the risk of Iranian military provocation in late 2019 and is noting further risks ahead, even as rhetoric between Washington and Tehran cools.
High Risk of Iranian Provocation To Start 2020
At the end of December 2019, Predata alerted clients that the near-term risk of provocative Iranian military activity, such as a ballistic missile test, was steadily rising. Those alerts came in the context of building tensions between Iran and the United States, which began with the killing of a U.S. contractor in Iraq. After the United States retaliated against Iran-backed militia targets, militiamen occupied the U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad on December 31. Even though we had only observed proxy activity to that point, the Predata alerts suggested overt Iranian military activity was in the offing for early 2020.
The U.S. Kills Soleimani: Where Does Iran Respond?
Immediately after the United States killed IRGC general Qasem Soleimani in a January 3 drone strike in Baghdad, Predata began to analyze trends in attention towards possible targets for an Iranian response. Notably high Persian-language attention to Al Asad Airbase was among the trends that stood out and that Predata sent to clients on January 6.
On January 7, Iran carried out a ballistic missile attack against U.S. military facilities at Al Asad Airbase and in Erbil. Predata’s analysis of trends in attention towards Al Asad Airbase was referenced in press reporting on the attack.
The ramifications of the Iranian attack—and subsequent softening of rhetoric on both sides—remain to be seen. Predata is following these trends over the coming days:
- U.S. military and diplomatic presence in the Gulf and West Asia continues to draw high levels of attention online, and internal instability indicators for Iraq are again on the rise.
- Security concerns for commercial shipping through the Strait of Hormuz are at their highest since last June, when oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of Oman and Iran shot down a U.S. Navy drone.
- Though oil prices rebounded to where they were before Soleimani was killed, risk-off sentiment may still linger in financial markets. In a note to customers on January 6, Predata observed the highest level of global attention to gold, a safe-haven asset, since the last risk-off rally in September 2019.
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