For the remainder of Trump’s term — as well as his next term, if reelected — we can expect an intensification of the undeclared U.S. war with Iran. There will be more sanctions, more military actions against Iranian-backed proxies in the Middle East, and more political pressure against Iran in international forums. We might also see the intensification of a troubling new phenomenon: the targeted killing of Iranian leaders.

As more information about the circumstances of Suleimani’s recent assassination has come to light, legal experts are raising alarms about the illegality of assassinating a high-ranking official of a foreign government. The lines between who can legally be killed outside of a formal declaration of war have been further blurred by the brazen killing ordered by Trump. The nebulous practices of the so-called global war on terrorism used to be defended as a way of targeting nonstate militants. With the killing of Suleimani, however, that war has been extended to states as well. The consequences of these shifts — in a world where drones and other means of remote killing are rapidly proliferating — are frightening to consider.

All things considered, the extent to which the Trump administration considered or even cared about such questions is probably limited. In pursuing an aggressive policy towards Iran with no obvious objective, Trump has now extended the most controversial counterterrorism practices of the post-9/11 era to a dangerous new frontier. The law of war might then become just another casualty along the way.

“Applying the view of terrorism to a state actor destroys the notion of sovereignty, international law, and the distinction between war and peace,” said Stephen Wertheim, the deputy director of research and policy at the Quincy Institute. “We can’t even say for sure right now if we’re at war with Iran or not. But we may look back in the future and realize that the war started with the assassination of Suleimani.”