The Debate

February 7, 2020

By now, everyone has heard about the possible World War Three, and forgotten about it once the memes got old. A trend that we are all familiar with is showing its head again. Something happens, lots of people get riled up, fake news and memes follow, everybody forgets about it after two weeks. Sound familiar?

Firstly, let’s remember what the world is made up of countries. In order for a World War to occur, there needs to be multiple powerful countries involved with the war in the first place. Currently, there is no reason for countries such as China and Russia to assume a significant part of this conflict. This will prevent the conflict from going international, given that China and Russia are two superpowers of the world who are extremely influential. 

One of the main hashtags trending on January 3rd, 2020 was #FranzFerdinand. Many people drew parallels between Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG). Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated by the 19-year-old Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Despite disapproving of the would-be king’s choice of his wife, Sophie Chotek, Austria-Hungary still needed Ferdinand, and thus declared war on Serbia, leading to a domino effect which resulted in World War One. 

Compare this to Soleimani. The United States government made an airstrike, personally approved by Donald Trump, the President of the United States. Soleimani was killed at Baghdad Airport by the two missiles fired from a drone. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced that Iran would have its revenge after the three days of mourning for Soleimani. On January 8th, 2020, Iran launched the military operation by the code name Operation Martyr Soleimani. Multiple ballistic missiles were launched on the Ayn Asad Air Base, with no casualties. Since then, there has been no news of other attacks.

The most obvious difference between Ferdinand and Soleimani is the title. Austria-Hungary was a monarchy, with the royal family being the country. An attack on a royal was an attack on the country. The equivalent to a royal in this situation is President Hassan Rouhani or the supreme leader himself. Soleimani was neither one of these two: he was a military man. He did have high prestige in Iran, yet he is still ranked lower than the President and supreme leader. Although a general ranks higher in Iran compared to in the US, thus holding more power, Soleimani was still a combatant. Additionally, the United States had already labelled the IRCG as a terrorist group. This meant that Soleimani was both a state actor and a terrorist, which changed the situation completely. If the US’s missiles had killed a civilian, then there would be a greater uproar, due to the Fourth Geneva Convention which made it so civilians were not to be harmed during the war. Soleimani was as far away from an Iranian civilian as can be, and was directing attacks against the US with the intention of causing harm.

In order to go to war, a country needs its people’s support. This is something that Trump definitely does not have. Since the attacks on the US base, the only news that we have been hearing are criticisms aimed at Donald Trump for saying, “I heard they had headaches,” referring to the members of the US military injured due to the missiles. Recently, the Pentagon has updated the number of those injured, stating that 64 personnel have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury. Trump’s popularity was rocky, to say the least, to begin with, and many Americans have made clear that he is “not their president”. Compared to World War Two, which had a high number of Americans’ support, a good majority of Americans currently do not want a war against Iran. Instead, they are hating on Trump due to their belief that what he did was stupid and could have ended horribly. 

After firing the missiles, Iran has not acted anymore. It was retaliation for what had been done to Soleimani, and it is speculated that the attack was done to save face. Iraq received a warning of the missiles incoming, and the US was able to detect them via early warning systems. Therefore, no one was killed. Iran seems to have sent the message of “We could have done it, but we didn’t” through their actions, at least according to a US State Department official.

Overall this event, while scary, has come to pass. It would be unreasonable to expect the US and Iran to just be friends now after decades of tension, but it is unlikely anything else to the bigger scale will happen. The US will continue to ensure that Iran’s economy is crushed, and Iran will still make small-scale attacks on US interests in the Middle East. If this teaches us anything, it is that you shouldn’t go onto social media for 3 days after a big event happens. The result will be like googling your symptoms for the common cold, and reaching the conclusion that you may have terminal cancer. 

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