On 3 January 2020, Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani was assassinated on the orders of United States President Donald Trump. While most people were enjoying the last of the holiday season playing at a casino online or indulging in other leisure activities, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force was struck down near Baghdad International Airport by a US drone strike. Now everyone seems to be saying – and posting on social media – that World War 3 is imminent. What’s really going on?
Relations between the USA and Iran have been strained for some time, not least because the Western superpower is allied with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is ruled by a Sunni majority, and is constantly at odds with the Shiite majority leadership in Iran – these are the 2 main branches of Islam, and the groups clash over religion and economic control of the movement of oil through the Persian Gulf.
Days before Soleimani’s killing, the United States embassy compound in Baghdad was stormed by a group of protestors. They were reacting to US airstrikes on a militia that was backed by Iran, so at this point it seems that the countries are essentially trading attacks on each other. From there, the Supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the assassination of Soleimani in the strongest terms, branding it as ‘criminal’ and saying Iran would take harsh revenge.
Canada Gets Involved
The situation worsens with each new incident, and with Canada getting involved the whole of North America is now caught up in the disputes. Less than a week after Soleimani’s death, on 8 January 2020, an Iranian surface-to-air missile was launched at Ukrainian International Flight PS752. The plane went down near Iran’s capital; Tehran, and took the lives of 176 Canadian, British, Ukrainian, Swedish and Afghani civilians. Iran officials then said that shooting the passenger aircraft down was a misfire, due to the air defences being on such high alert after the Major General’s assassination.
Canada, involved now because of the 57 Canadians who died on Flight PS752, has been investigating the missile attack. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suggested that hitting the plane was an error, but that the strike itself was an intentional retaliation and aimed at a US military base in Iraq rather than simply a skittish misfire. Trudeau has also said that the United States didn’t advance-warn his country of the planned assassination, leaving them unprepared in the face of possible counter-attacks.
Trump Twitters On
Meanwhile back at the White House, President Trump has been doing what he does best – not engaging in resolution talks, finding solutions to help the 39+ million USA citizens who live below the breadline or anything like that, but regularly updating his Twitter account. He even told Congress to follow him on the social media platform for updates on acts of war against Iran, which, according to Yale Law School Professor Oona Hathaway, is illegal.
But Trump’s never been one to let pesky things like legality and morals stand in the way of a good Twitter blast, and he surely won’t start now. Some experts have noted that slaying Soleimani could be nothing more than a brilliant diversion tactic to distract the American public from Trump’s impeachment trial. Considering that it has now come to light that Trump approved a potential directive to kill the Major General back in June 2019 and the move was not made in response to imminent attacks as has be claimed, there could be some truth to this idea. Starting a World War just to keep yourself out of trouble seems a bit extreme, but entirely possible in Trump’s case.
Using Memes to Cope
President Trump isn’t the only one with ridiculous posts about the US/Iran situation. Millions of young, healthy men and women in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave are doing the same, but their posts are full of wit and irony. Predominantly taking the form of memes and TikTok videos, these posts are the latest example of how people use humour to cope with terrible realities – of which war must be one of the worst. The young adults making the jokes are the same ones who will be deployed if World War 3 does start, so perhaps the posts are an even bigger indication that this might happen than the growing conflict, military action and number of countries involved.