In the midst of World War 3 memes and esoteric articles, it can be difficult to understand what the death of General Qasem Soleimani truly represents for American citizens and for the global community as a whole.
Qasem Soleimani was the commander of the most highly ranked military power in all of Iran: the Quds. The Revolutionary Guards Quds Force has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, as they were responsible for killing U.S. troops during the Iraq war. General Soleimani is also known to be very close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei; many Middle Eastern analysts even go so far as to claim that he has the power similar to that of a Vice President. In America, on both sides of the aisle, he is characterized as a vicious murderer. However, among Iranians, he is known as a hero, and is celebrated for his work while fighting ISIS.
Despite the various comical Instagram posts, tweets, and TikToks depicting theoretical draft-dodging for World War 3, this action by the United States is unlikely to actually lead to war. After declaring the death of General Soleimani an “act of war,” Iran’s United Nations ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, assured that it would be met with “a harsh revenge.” The historical precedent, however, implies otherwise. According to Eric Edelman, a practitioner senior fellow at UVA’s Miller Center, “use of force or threat of force from the U.S. has more often than not led to Iran pulling back.” Though the strike on General Soleimani was an incredibly risky undertaking by the current administration, it is unlikely to lead to a measure as drastic as war because Iran knows that they would lose. They are less powerful, have a decidedly lesser number of weaker allies, along with the fact that many foreign powers have committed themselves to de-escalation in the face of this attack.
Though the Trump Administration has made a strategic mistake in deciding to kill General Soleimani, World War 3 is not going to suddenly break out in your backyard. What we can expect to see, instead, are smaller, targeted strikes on American troops.