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Within the first few days of 2020, the hashtag ‘World War Three’ was trending across social media platforms and being searched across the web. President Trump’s seemingly reckless decision to assassinate Iran’s Major General Qassim Soleimani almost immediately sparked fears of retaliation, escalation and potential war between the two nations. The tension between Iran and America is unlikely to just fizzle out, and the deaths of 176 passengers on the Ukrainian jetliner proves that things have already gone too far.
Soleimani, the second most powerful man in Iran, had been named a terrorist by the United States and was killed with an American drone after leaving Baghdad airport. In Iran, however, Soleimani’s death was met with uproar. The supreme leader Ali Khamenei has vowed that his demise will be severely avenged.
The assassination of general Soleimani was incredibly risky, reckless, and came with little thought. As it stands, the reason behind Trump’s decision has only been explained in frustratingly limited detail. America has simply stated that the general was involved in developing plans to kill American diplomats. The world demands more than this to justify actions that have the potential to escalate into a drastic and dangerous international conflict.
Despite its popular internet attention, experts have said that World War Three is unlikely to occur, but this does not mean that America, Iran or the rest of the world can breathe. Iran’s airstrikes on the Iraqi bases holding American troops was a direct retaliation to the death of their general, but it does not necessarily mark the end of their fight.
Whether there were any casualties is unclear. Although Trump seems to be conveying this as an end to the potential conflict, the impending long-term effects are alarming. Trump published a tweet stating that ‘Iran appears to be standing down’ and this suggests one of two things: either Trump is naïve enough to believe that Iran will not take further action along the line, or that he thinks his audience is. Either way, the anger that has been met with the death of Soleimani suggests that the tension between the two nations will not simply disappear. Iran may be biding its time before the actions of their true retaliation and severe vengeance is made clear.
Regardless of the potential future outcome that the conflict between Iran and America could bring to the new decade, it is important to reflect on the harm and hurt that has already been caused. Alongside Soleimani, nine others were killed in the Baghdad airport strike. Iran claims that 80 Americans were killed in their attack on the Iraqi base (although this number is certainly not confirmed and other reports have suggested that nobody was killed). The death toll consisting of military and political personnel is bad enough. However, once innocent civilians are forced into the conflict it becomes apparent that things are out of hand.
This is exactly what happened on the night that Iran launched ballistic missiles on Iraqi military bases. A Ukrainian jetliner came down near Tehran, the capital of Iran, and all 176 people on board were killed. Days later it emerged that the plane had not merely crashed, instead it had been shot down by Iranian missiles. Although unintentional, 176 people were brought into, and killed by, a conflict that was not at all related to them. Javid Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, apologised for Iran’s critical mistake, but also passed some blame onto the United States. He stated: “Human error at a time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to [this] disaster.”
But the blame lies with both countries. Iran for firing the missile, taking so little care on such huge destruction, and America for initiating something that led to this disaster, starting a conflict that was bound to escalate. The tension between these two countries is alarming and the world will not know the effects for some time. With such a huge opportunity for disaster, Iran and America need to form a certain truce, for the sake of the world.