Iran's "severe retaliation" threat has yet to come, but Washington is bracing for impact, also at a moment the US military may be mulling a troop pullout from Iraq amid conflicting reports.
Considering Iranian threats over the past two days have been growing, with Iranian media and state TV airing more and more ominous signs that some kind of attack on US interests is coming in the region, an important question remains of where NATO stands in all of this.
"North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg refused to speculate about whether the alliance would trigger its mutual-defense clause were Iran to strike American targets in response to the U.S. killing of a top Iranian military commander," reports Bloomberg on Monday.
The concern, according Stoltenberg, is that any firm or clear stance in relation to the Article 5 collective defense stipulation would “not help to de-escalate”. The NATO chief was pressed on the issue during a press conference in Brussels. He said that rather than help matters, any stance delineating a potential NATO course of action “will actually do the opposite.”
Simultaneous to NATO's "silence" the Western military alliance has actually suspended its counter-terrorism training efforts inside Iraq as a result of "heightened security risks" in the wake of last week's US killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
However, Stoltenberg did say at a meeting of ambassadors representing the alliance who were in Brussels to discuss the Soleimani killing,“We have recently seen an escalation by Iran.” He added: "Allies today expressed concern over Iran's destabilizing activity in the region and for terrorist organisations."
Iranian media has issued video montages containing threats against the United States:
پاسخ کاربران ایرانی به انتشار تصویر پرچم آمریکا توسط ترامپ. pic.twitter.com/fWU2jVkSxL— روزنامه ایران (@IranNewspaper) January 6, 2020
State channels have further broadcast military shows of force against the United States on Monday:
عاجل : التلفزيون الإيراني بث قبل قليل نشيد الحرب الإيرانية - العراقية في إشارة إلى حالة الحرب التي قد تشهدها المنطقة بعد مقتل سليماني . هذا النشيد ومترجم إلى اللغة العربية. pic.twitter.com/2NnNxYDOKW— محمد مجيد الأحوازي (@MohamadAhwaze) January 6, 2020
And crucially, following Sunday's declaration by Iran's leaders that it will recognize "no limits" to its nuclear energy program, Stoltenberg asserted:
"We also agreed that Iran should never have a nuclear weapon."
Notably, NATO did invoke its its collective-defense provision in the wake of the al-Qaeda attacks on 9//11 — something which hawks in the US administration will likely push for should there be any clear military action on the part of Iran targeting US forces or interests.
Thus far, however, the evidence on which the US acted to take out Soleimani remains flimsy, according to a number of accounts and sources.