If you’ve seen World War III trending across social media, you’re probably feeling a little bit worried right now. And who can blame you?
But is the world really heading for another huge war?
Tensions between the US and Iran have been brewing for years. But the election of president Trump has seen a sharp escalation of both rhetoric and actions from both sides.
What happened this time?
Following an attack on the US embassy in Iraq, which America has blamed on Iran, the US launched airstrikes against Iran. Qassem Soleimani, who leads Iran’s elite Quds force, was killed in what was deemed by the US as “defensive action.” Iran called the move "state terrorism". The killing has further escalated tensions with Iran, and it remains to be seen how they’ll respond.
Is World War III really on the horizon?
Over the next few days, we’ll likely here a lot of different opinions on what’s going to happen next. Foreign issues can be unpredictable, particularly when someone like Trump is in the White House.
The former UK ambassador to Lebanon said that the crucial question is what happened next. Though he did suggest that Soleimani was a "much more powerful figure than Osama bin Laden or Baghdadi, where at the moment of their own deaths, their power was in decline."
Former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley praised Trump for doing the “right thing”.
But another former ambassador, Samantha Power, said the opposite. She even worried that things could now get “ugly” very quickly.
Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren called Trump’s move “reckless”, but emphasised that the priority must be to avoid another “costly war”.
Likewise, California congressman Adam Schiff didn’t condemn the killing, but did condemn the lack of authorisation of the airstrikes and the possibility of another war.
Joe Biden also said that the “stakes could not be higher”.
Trump ally Lindsey Graham warned Iran to “leave America and our allies alone”, which sounds pretty ominous.
What is Britain's response?
In a statement that was lacking in much detail, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that further conflict is in "none of our interests".
We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Soleimani. Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.
So are we heading for another war?
The simple answer is: we don’t know – yet. What is clear, though, is that this latest escalation isn’t isolated, it’s been building for years. Trump has talked a big talk before (remember his "fire and fury" remarks about North Korea?) but this feels new.
Just three days into the new decade, it’s clear that war is a distinct possibility.