Politics

No, you're not being drafted to Iran, US Army says after spoof messages scare Americans

Key Points
  • Fears of greater conflict in the Middle East shook global markets and saw "WW3" trend on Twitter after the Trump administration's Jan. 3 strike on Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
  • The U.S. Army had to make an official statement after recruiting offices in the U.S. were hit with a barrage of panicked phone calls over the fraudulent text messages.
This handout picture released by the US Army shows U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, deploy from Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina on January 1, 2020.
CAPT. ROBYN HAAKE

Fake news had a field day amid last week's dramatic escalation in U.S.-Iran tensions, even managing to convince several Americans that the U.S. was reinstating the draft for an impending war with Iran.

"United States Official Army Draft, we tried contacting you through the mail several times and have had no response," the text messages read, which were sent out in the days after the U.S. launched a drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

"You've been marked eligible and must come to the nearest recruitment branch in Jacksonville, Florida for immediate departure to Iran."

"We're aware that this number is not disconnected, you'll be fined and sent to jail for minimum 6 years if no reply," the text concluded.

The message was signed off "U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion" and offers a name and location to which the recipient is directed to report.

It's not known how many people received messages, but it was apparently enough that the U.S. Army had to make an official statement after recruiting offices in the U.S. were hit with a barrage of panicked phone calls.

"U.S. Army Recruiting Command has received multiple calls and emails about these fake text messages and wants to ensure Americans understand these texts are false and were not initiated by this command or the U.S. Army," a statement on the Army's website read.

A similar version of the message that was circulated read: "You've been marked eligible and must come to the nearest branch in New Jersey Area for immediate departure to Iran."

The U.S. disbanded the draft in 1973, and the country's military — the third-largest in the world after China and India with just over 1.2 million active personnel — has been an all-volunteer force since.

The demographic of who the messages were sent to appears random — from adults to kids as young as 14, according U.S. Army Recruiting Command media relations chief who spoke to NPR.

The Army statement added, "Registering for the Selective Service does not enlist a person into the military. Army recruiting operations are proceeding as normal."

Heavy online traffic brought down parts of the Selective Services System website on Jan. 3 and it posted a notice on its website that read, "Due to the spread of misinformation, our website is experiencing high volumes of traffic at this time. If you are registering or attempting to verify registration, please check back later today as we are working to resolve this issue."

The Selective Service System (SSS) is an independent U.S. government agency that holds information on Americans eligible for conscription, and all males between the ages of 18 to 26 are required by law to register their information with it. Because the draft is no longer in place, its relevance is minimal, and compliance is patchy.

Fears of greater conflict in the Middle East shook global markets after the Trump administration's Jan. 3 strike on Soleimani, who had headed Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds Force and led Iranian expansion through proxy forces around the region. "WW3" was trending on Twitter. Trump has since announced that Iran "appears to be standing down" after an Iranian retaliatory strike resulted in no casualties, but Iran's Revolutionary Guards are publicly threatening further revenge.

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