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How will President Trump respond to Iranian retaliation for the killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani?

The two guiding principles of behavioral forecasting based on psychological profiling are:

  1. Personality directs — and therefore predicts — behavior.
  2. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Based on (1) empirical studies of Donald Trump’s personality profile and leadership style conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics and (2) rational-intuitive inference derived from President Trump’s observed behavior in office, the following general expectancies present themselves with reference to Trump’s likely response to Iran’s anticipated retaliation for the targeted killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Key personality traits driving President Trump’s behavior

Donald Trump is bold, self-assured, and levelheaded under pressure and in the face of adversity; is a dramatic attention‑getter more inclined to precipitous action than to indecision; enjoys the power to take charge, evoke respect, and seeing that the job gets done; is tough, competitive, and unsentimental; and is willing to flout tradition, acting autonomously in accordance with his personal goals and preferences.

Relevant indicators from President Trump’s past behavior

Donald Trump prides himself on “promises made, promises kept” and completing projects on- or ahead of schedule; is motivated to extricate the United States from “endless wars”; is driven to project military power to buttress U.S. prestige and national security; and is generally explicit in stating his intent.

General expectancies for President Trump’s response to Iranian reprisal

  • President Trump is highly unlikely to order a full-scale war such as George H.W. Bush’s Gulf War (1991) or George W. Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).
  • President Trump is unlikely to escalate the current standoff with Iran in the absence of revenge operations by the Iranian regime or its proxies.
  • President Trump is likely to respond proportionately to Iranian retaliation outside the United States, provided no U.S. nationals are harmed (but may incrementally escalate counterattacks if revenge attacks persist).
  • President Trump is likely to respond disproportionately to Iranian retaliation outside the United States if U.S. nationals are killed or injured.
  • President Trump is likely to respond with overwhelming force to attacks by Iran or its proxies within the United States or its territories.


Update: January 9, 2020

Trump backs away from further military conflict with Iran (Peter Baker, New York Times, Jan. 8, 2020) — President Trump backed away from further military action against Iran and called for renewed diplomacy on Wednesday as the bristling confrontation of the past six days eased in the aftermath of an Iranian missile strike that seemed intended to save face rather than inflict casualties. … The president’s statement came hours after Iran’s government indicated that it had “concluded proportionate measures” avenging the killing of the commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, with the launch of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing American troops. The missiles did not result in any American or Iraqi deaths, an outcome interpreted by some analysts as a deliberate attempt by Iran to claim it had responded, but without provoking Mr. Trump. …


Update: November 27, 2020

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top nuclear scientist — considered one of the masterminds of Iran’s nuclear program — has been killed in an apparent assassination that the country’s foreign minister linked to Israel.

Several top-level Iranian officials have condemned the attack and threatened to retaliate.

Iran has yet to respond, beyond condemnation, to the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani earlier this year.

Read full report at CNN


Update: December 23, 2020

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