Escalation of Tensions between Iran and the US
January 13, 2020
On January 3, 2020, President Donald Trump ordered an overnight airstrike in the Baghdad airport in Iraq which killed at least twenty-five people, including General Qasem Soleimani and other high-ranking Iranian officials. Since then, from violent anti-American sentiments to TikTok World War III memes, the effect has been rippling through every aspect of global society.
The day following the attack, Iranians flocked to the streets to mourn the loss of Soleimani and the other victims. They waved banners and pictures and chanted anti-American phrases. Iranian officials have remarked that the assassination of Soleimani is an act of war.
General Soleimani was a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war in which Iraq’s Saddam Hussein invaded Iran using American funding. This was the spark that ignited Soleimani’s hatred for the US. After the Iran-Iraq war, he quickly began climbing the ranks of Iran’s military and became one of the head generals in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He was known for orchestrating many military offensives. He grew to become an extremely prominent figure in Iran and was beloved by many Iranians.
Soleimani died in Baghdad, a city in Iraq. The attack thus dragged Iraq into the fray, along with many other allied and enemy countries. “It’s important to recognize that it’s not just a conflict between two countries. It’s a lot more complicated than that,” said SHS Social Studies teacher Nicola Minchillo. Trump publicly admitted to the assassination, a situation that lacks precedent and pressures Iran to retaliate rather than back down.
President Trump has appeared in press conferences and taken to Twitter to address the issue. He accused Soleimani of plotting the deaths of many Americans and being responsible for millions of innocent deaths in the past, as he was the primary architect of many military campaigns. Trump has also confirmed that he is “ready and prepared to take any action that is necessary” if Iran threatens American interests. He further emphasized that Soleimani had taken innocent lives and that his “reign of terror” was now over.
On Sunday, January 5, Iran dropped out of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the “Iran nuclear deal” or the “Iran deal,” in direct response to the assassination. The deal was signed in 2015 and required its signatories to restrict their enrichment of uranium. The nations included in the pact have been trying to salvage the agreement, but with the withdrawal of Iran and the 2018 U.S. secession from the Iran deal, the authority of this agreement has been significantly crippled.
On Tuesday, January 7, Iran fired missiles at Iraqi military bases that had American soldiers stationed at them. There were no casualties. However, many believe that it is now the US’s turn to respond. Nancy Pelosi scheduled a House of Representatives vote that requires Congress to agree to military offensives targeting Iran before they are carried out. This is designed to limit reckless offensives and miscalculation that could severely escalate the situation.
Energy stocks have plummeted as oil prices increased dramatically. Many are afraid that Iran will retaliate by hacking the American private sector or stopping the oil trade with the U.S. The Iranian government has promised “forceful revenge” for Soleimani’s death and have already shown that they are taking a militaristic approach.
Since the killing of General Soleimani, the internet has exploded with thousands of both ominous and humorous notions of war. Many teenagers have already seen the TikToks predicting World War III or the memes circulating the idea of a military draft. “The problem with those TikTok videos is that it makes everyone like these little isolated bubbles, and they stew in their own anxiety instead of really understanding what the situation is. So, I would encourage [people] to spend more time reading and researching then just watching those videos,” recommended Minchillo. Others, like Minchillo, view the TikTok videos as another way to add worries to one’s mind without fully showing the situation as it is. Some people, however, think of the videos as a justified coping mechanism. “[I see it as] a way that people are able to deal with things that they are scared of. In this situation, I guess it could scare people into thinking that there will be World War III, but it’s [just] a joke,” explained Eleanor Gudstdat ’23.
The possible next steps of action by the U.S. and Iran are broad, causing panic and wild speculation. All that can be done now is stay calm and be up-to-date with the news.