Will the conflict in Iran lead to a third world war?

Camryn Robbinson, Editor in Chief

Although it has only been a month into the new year, rumors of a third world war have broken out after President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike near the Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3. Based on the statement released by the U.S. Department of Defense, the “defensive action” led to the death of the Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Trump’s reasoning behind the airstrike was due to Soleimani’s previous actions against the U.S., as well as plans to attack American diplomats and service members.

“General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more,” the statement read. 

However, many different opinions have surfaced as to if Trump’s reasoning for the assassination of Soleimani was an ethical strategy or something America should be worried about.  Political Participation teacher Ryan Robie sees both sides of the story. 

“I think every choice that a world leader makes is going to have intended and unintended consequences,” Robie said.  “With him [Soleimani] being such a high ranking official, there is going to be some sort of consequence for that action.”  

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy was quick to share his thoughts on the matter after Soleimani’s death, tweeting that “One reason we don’t generally [assassinate] foreign political officials is the belief that such action will get more, not less, Americans killed.”

Murphy’s concerns seem to be accurate after Iranian troops dropped 22 ballistic missiles at two U.S. military bases. 

Because Trump confirmed there were no casualties after the missile drop, Iran’s retaliation was questioned to be more of a theatrical event rather than a lethal one. While Trump’s initial report confirmed zero injuries, it was noted a few days after the missile drop that 32 U.S. service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Paulo Casaca, Iran expert and director of the South Asia Democratic Forum in Brussels, believes that the missile strike had more to do with symbolism than reprisal. 

Pointing out that Iran military purposefully struck around the same time U.S. troops killed Soleimani, Casaca explained during a DW.com (German news site) interview that he “really don’t [doesn’t] think they [Iran soldiers] were trying to kill or injure Americans,” and that the attack “was more of a theatrical operation.”

Casaca also explained how the Iran missile strike on Jan. 7 was an attempt for Tehran to show the world they responded how any “normal” nation would and that by dodging direct hits on U.S. personnel, Iran is attempting to abate conflict between them and America.  

While Iran is trying to lessen conflict with the US, social media apps have played a role in creating rumors about a possible world war. Young adults have taken up apps like Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to share memes about the idea of being drafted. For senior Christine Colwell, the memes about WWIII are a hit or miss.

“I find a lot of them to be funny, but a few go too far and use bad stereotypes of America which makes our country look bad,” Colwell said. “When people use memes to discriminate against others by saying a group of people, such as the LGBTQ+ community, should be drafted is disgusting and does not reflect our country very well.”

These memes have also caused people to believe false information that develops into rumors.

“I think memes lead to more people believing WWIII could happen because most of the people on social media do not pay attention to the news,” Colwell said. 

So the question is, now that Iran attempted vengeance, what is to be expected of the relationship between Tehran and Washington? While memes and rumors of a draft have taken over the internet, WWIII or any war is highly unlikely according to Casaca. 

“I don’t think there will be a frontal, formal war between the U.S. and Iran in Iraq. I think Iran will resume its normal tactics of using proxies and disguising its attacks,” Casaca said in the DW.com story.