People burn a poster representing US President Donald Trump (L) to protest against the US authorities for the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, during a demonstration near the US embassy in New Delhi on January 7, 2020. – A US drone strike killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad’s international airport on January 3, dramatically heightening regional tensions and prompting arch enemy Tehran to vow “revenge”.

PRAKASH SINGH | AFP | Getty Images

The threat of blowbacks from Iran could continue for years and may come in the form of covert or diplomatic action, an expert said on Wednesday.

Jarrett Blanc, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned of a “further, overt response” if U.S. President Donald Trump “gloats” in a statement he is set to make on Wednesday morning stateside.

Following a U.S. airstrike that killed Tehran’s top commander Qasem Soleimani last week, Tehran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at bases housing American troops in Iraq early Wednesday morning local time.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that Iran “took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.”

But Blanc told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” that this is unlikely to be the end of Iran’s vowed retaliation.

“I think it is almost inconceivable that this is the end of Iran’s reaction,” he said. “It might be the end of Iran’s short-term reaction, it might be the end of Iran’s overt reactions, but I think that there will continue to be blowbacks from Iran from the Soleimani assassination, whether that’s covert action or certainly diplomatic action over the mid to long term,” Blanc said.

There’s a “huge number” of directions that Iran can take, Blanc said. “They can certainly have their own assassination attempt. There could be a covert or terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in the region or elsewhere.”

He added that Tehran could continue to push the Iraqi government to force U.S. troops out of the country, though a “final decision” has not been made.

“If they go through that entire process and make that decision, I think the United States is going to have to leave despite President Trump’s bluster,” he said. “My instinct is that, the end of U.S. military involvement, U.S. military presence in Iraq is in sight.”

“The Iranians have an opportunity now to force us out and, though it is of mixed interest from their perspective, they’ll probably take advantage of that opportunity,” he added.

Noting that Iran has “military, conventional, overt, covert (and) diplomatic” options, he warned that there could be a “rapid escalation” if Trump makes the wrong move.

Trump earlier tweeted that he will make a statement on Wednesday morning in the U.S.

Blanc said: “If he gloats that, you know, we’ve killed a top Iranian general and all they’ve done is hit the desert, he greatly increases the chances that there will be a further, overt response from Iran and again, increase the chance of a rapid escalation toward a really large scale conflict in the region.”

On the other hand, if Trump doesn’t gloat, the situation could be defused, he said.

“If he manages to keep the gloating to a minimum, it’s possible that the large scale, overt response has been satisfied and we move again into the more covert responses which, while terrible and potentially very damaging, don’t quite pose the same risk of war in the short term.”

CNBC’s Amanda Macias, Jacob Pramuk and Riya Bhattacharjee contributed to this report


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