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Middle East expert: 3 things to know about U.S. strike that killed top Iranian general

A Middle East expert explains how we got here and what's likely to happen next.

The air strike that killed Iran's top general is causing concern, confusion and fear in this country. 

We asked a Middle East expert in Houston to break it down.

KHOU spoke with Joe Barnes, a research fellow at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. Barnes writes extensively on international politics and spent 14 years as a U.S. State Department diplomat, including in the Middle East.

He says the first thing to know: Qassem Soulemani was an important, powerful figure in Iran and across the Middle East.

“This is important,” says Barnes. “This is a big deal.”

Barnes calls General Soulemani the "architect" of Iran projecting its power through proxies like Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

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Number two: Barnes calls the strike a “sharp escalation” in an ongoing dispute between the U.S. and Iran.

“This sort of finds its recent origins in the Trump administration’s decision to exit the nuclear deal and ramp up sanctions,” said Barnes.

Finally, number three: Barnes says the U.S. has moved into “new terrain” with this strike.

“The imponderables are huge,” he said “The scope for miscalculation is great. Unpredictability is the only thing that one can safely predict at this point.”

Barnes says what happens next all depends on how the Iranians respond, but he’s confident they will.

“(They) will response to this in force in ways that are meant to hurt the United States, but what form these attacks will take is unclear.”

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