America hovered between two dark fronts this week despite 2020 — the hardest, most turbulent year in decades — passing into the annals of history.
At home, we were blindsided by a bombing in Nashville on Christmas day. And while the blast occurred on a relatively empty street at a time of day when most people were at home, it touched an old nerve. In the days following, we worked to analyze every bit of information available. We pored over photos and videos to try and work out the type of explosive used. We picked apart photos of the vehicle used to transport and conceal the device. We even went down the rabbit hole with the myriad conspiracy theories which have sprung up in the explosion’s aftermath. But at the end of the day, we were left wondering whether the act was domestic terror or just the frustrated last move of a very sick man.
While we tried to shake off the troubles at home, rising tensions with Iran have put us on edge. As the anniversary of the strike on Iranian General Qassem Soleimani approaches, Iran, and its most vocal frontmen, have sworn to exact vengeance. In the midst of these threats, the U.S. Navy recalled the USS Nimitz from the Persian Gulf, a move that some see as an indication that Iran’s threats are mere saber-rattling. Still, the U.S. — and to some extent, the world — waits with bated breath to see if, and how, Iran might retaliate.
We kept our eyes on several other fronts as well. In Mali, three French soldiers were killed in an IED attack which further undermined France’s dedication to what some are calling a “dead-end war” in the Sahel. Explosions at the Aden airport in Yemen killed 22 and injured another 50 in another deadly outburst of violence believed to be carried out by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel group. In Afghanistan, a new militia group is gaining in strength. While it’s currently pro-U.S. and pro-Afghan government, there is growing concern that the relationship could sour and become another force in an already complex battlespace. Meanwhile, the Taliban’s newest wing, an assassin group dubbed “Obaida” carried out another targeted killing, this time of an Afghan National Army pilot, as the Taliban continue to drive wedges between the U.S., the Afghan government, and the Afghan people.