[What follows is excerpted from a long article by John Simpson in today's edition of The Mail on Sunday:]
Following the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani in the early hours of Friday morning – personally ordered by President Trump from his Florida holiday home, Mar-a-Lago – retribution is now a major priority for Iran’s leaders and their forces. And, as my Iranian friend implied, they have plenty of options. There are only two requirements: whatever action they take should satisfy Iran’s instinctive desire for vengeance, yet it should not be so blatant that it provokes the United States into an all-out war. (...)
There is a huge variety of alternative strategies. Iran has often staged cyber-attacks against Western targets, with some success; but although cutting American power supplies or the flow of information might be briefly satisfying to Iran’s leaders, it won’t have the element of personal revenge they want. As in the past, Iran can use proxy groups to attack international shipping in the Gulf. But Western intelligence and tactics have improved recently, and this may not be as effective as in the past. (...)
An eye for an eye has always been the approach of the clerics who control the government of the Islamic Republic. (...)
On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes, a new guided missile cruiser, was on patrol in the Gulf at a time of greatly heightened tension between Iran and the US. It found itself involved in a shoot-out with a group of apparently hostile Iranian gunboats. While the firing was still going on, an Airbus A300 of Iran Air took off from Bandar Abbas, a civil as well as military airport on the Gulf coast of Iran, and flew south towards the Vincennes.
As a result of a catastrophic technical mistake, the defensive systems on the Vincennes identified the Airbus as a military jet coming in to attack. Vincennes fired two radar-guided missiles at it, bringing it down with the loss of all 290 people on board.
By chance, a television team was filming on the bridge of the Vincennes that morning. The cameraman captured the delight of the crew when they thought they had shot down a hostile fighter, and the change to horror when it became clear what had really happened.
William Rogers, the captain of USS Vincennes who gave the order to fire the missiles, was cleared by a board of inquiry, but Iran believes to this day that the destruction of the Airbus was deliberate, and its leaders announced that they would avenge it.
Almost six months later, on December 21, a small group of Libyan terrorists associated with Iran’s close ally Syria planted a bomb on an American PanAm airliner. It blew up over Lockerbie, killing 270 people altogether.
Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya got the blame, but many people in the American and British intelligence community believe that Iran gave the original instructions for the attack, to avenge the shooting down of the Airbus. (...)
[RB: While many believe that Iran commissioned the destruction of Pan Am 103, no-one that I'm aware of has ever suggested that Abdelbaset Megrahi or Lamin Fhimah were members of "a small group of Libyan terrorists associated with Iran's close ally Syria" nor is there any evidence that such a group existed. If Iran was the instigator, the evidence points to the actual perpetrators being Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-GC and there is no evidence of any Libyan link to that group.]
Iran’s religious leaders believe their authority and the reputation of Iran now depend on getting specific retribution for President Trump’s ordering of the assassination of General Soleimani and his companions.