On January 3, I woke before the dawn adhān in my room overlooking the Nile. Cairo, a chaotic, frenetic, and decrepit city, was unnaturally still, except for the evocative morning call to prayer.

I was on my way to a remote monastery in the desert to talk to Coptic priests about the rifts in Egyptian society since General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power in a military coup d’état in 2013. But as the light rose in the desert, and we drove deeper into the Wadi el Natrun, I heard a radio report that sounded improbable. Nearly one thousand miles away, in Baghdad, the Iranian top general, Qasem Soleimani, had been killed by an American drone attack. My first thought was that President Trump had achieved more than anything the Iranian government could ever contemplate: in one swift act lacking any long-term strategic thinking, he had united the frustrated Iranian people against their enemy.