World War III?

Does the killing of Qasem Soleimani mean that we are heading towards World War III? The answer must be no, despite the Iranian missile attacks on military bases in Iraq. At least it will not be an all-out war, in the sense of a military confrontation between armed forces directly attacking each other and causing large casualties. However, it is likely to intensify and further complicate the many wars fought in the Middle East. I do not pretend to know or understand, let alone explain, who is acting for what aims and on whose behalf in these conflicts.

Leaving aside other considerations such as legal and ethical, I have to wonder what strategic goals the US administration had in mind when it decided to take this action. While tactical decisions may require opacity so as not to compromise operations, the larger strategic goals ought to be clear to everyone. The action must be a means to an end, but what is the end? The apparent lack of clarity is confusing and frightening. Having abandoned the Kurds, and essentially ceding ground to the likes of Russia and Turkey in Syria, the US seemed to have been disengaging from the region. Yet this action is likely to draw the US into further conflict, as Iran can make life even more difficult for the US allies in the region. President Trump has been belligerent in his talk, and it is unclear whether he has considered and weighed the risks of escalating the tension with Iran with any care.

Perhaps there is a really cunning plan that I cannot discern in all of this, but it feels as if the current US foreign policy is muddled, and its direction is determined by the whim of the president who is volatile and unpredictable.