#WW3 may be trending, but experts say it’s unlikely

CBC Kids News • Published 2020-01-09 12:59
UPDATE: When we originally published this article on Jan. 8, we said there was no evidence to connect a plane crash that killed 63 Canadians in Iran to the death of Qassem Soleimani. On Jan. 11, Iran admitted that the plane was accidentally shot down by an Iranian missile.

Hashtag was sparked by U.S. attack on Iranian general

When the news came out that U.S. President Donald Trump had ordered the death of one of Iran’s most powerful military commanders, #WW3 started trending on TikTok and Twitter.

Many of the early posts were sort of darkly funny, using the idea of a Third World War as the inspiration for a series of gloomy memes.

But as the situation started to escalate, some people got scared.

Turns out, that whole #WW3 thing? Not likely to happen any time soon, many experts say.

“There will be no World War Three due to the current confrontation between Iran and U.S.” - Political scientist Houchang Hassan-Yari

TikTok post from user @massues shows boy taking photos of ruins with caption

But let’s back up. Why was #WW3 trending in the first place?

The spark

Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike on Jan. 3.

Why? The U.S. Defence Department said Soleimani had approved plans to attack Americans in the past and was preparing to do it again.

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke about the attack on Soleimani to the media on Jan. 3. He said it wasn’t an act of war, but a way to prevent it. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Iran called it an act of terrorism and promised revenge.

On Tuesday, the Middle Eastern country retaliated by firing missiles at two Iraqi military bases where U.S. soldiers were staying.

No Canadians were hurt in the attack, even though Canada has about 500 troops stationed in Iraq as part of an effort to fight a militant group called ISIS.

That mission is now on hold until Canada can ensure the safety of its soldiers.

Tweet from General Jonathan Vance says CAF families: I can assure you that all deployed CAF personnel are safe and accounted for following missile attacks in Iraq. We remain vigilant.

Why is this happening?

The U.S. and Iran have been enemies for a long time and their relationship had become worse in recent months.

Some are suggesting these recent attacks could cause even more damage to that relationship.

But don’t panic.

“There will be no World War Three due to the current confrontation between Iran and U.S.,” said Houchang Hassan-Yari, a professor emeritus in political science at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont.

The conflict is confined to a small part of the world, he told CBC Kids News.

Powerful countries not involved

Also, many of the more powerful nations on the planet aren’t directly involved, Hassan-Yari said. “There is no desire among big powers to confront each other.”

BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus echoed that idea when answering questions from the public online.

The fact that countries like Russia and China are not “significant players in this drama” will help ensure the conflict doesn’t get too big, he said.

“This will not prompt World War Three,” said Marcus.

Protester holds sign up to the sky that reads: War is not the answer.

Some people are taking to the streets in the U.S. and Canada to voice their concerns about the increased tension between the U.S. and Iran. (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune/The Associated Press)

The CBC’s Nahlah Ayed, who has reported on a number of clashes across the Middle East, also said the fact that both Iran and the U.S. are heading into elections soon means all-out war isn’t likely.

Still worried? Here are some tips for dealing with sad or scary news.

Investigation underway

On Wednesday, 63 Canadians were killed when a plane crashed shortly after leaving Tehran, which is the capital of Iran.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said evidence suggests the plane was shot down by an Iranian missile and it may have been an accident.

The investigation continues.

Tweet from United Nations Iran shows image of candle with this message: The UN Family in Iran extends its deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones in today's tragic plane crash.


With files from CBC News, The Associated Press

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