By ZEINAB NAJM
The killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani may have taken place overseas, but the impact is being felt by elected officials and religious leaders serving the Dearborn and Dearborn Heights communities where Arab-Americans reside.
Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Forces, died Jan. 3 in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport ordered by President Donald Trump days after Iranian-backed militia supporters stormed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The Trump administration said the assault on the embassy was orchestrated by Soleimani, and that the general was plotting to blow up an American embassy.
Iran stuck back at the Unite States Jan. 8 by firing a series of ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing American troops, according to the Associated Press.
Of the total 15 missiles fired by Iran, 10 hit the Ain al-Asad air base, one hit the Irbil base and four failed, U.S. officials told the AP. Two Iraqi security officials said one of those missiles appeared to have struck a plane at the Ain al-Asad air base and causing a fire. No casualties were reported.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 224-194 in favor of a war powers resolution that directs the president to terminate the use of U.S. armed forces to engage in hostilities against Iran unless Congress has declared war or enacted a specific authorization or unless military action is necessary to defend against an imminent attack, NBC News said.
In response, White House Spokesman Hogan Gidlet said, “These Congressional actions are completely misguided. In fact, this ridiculous resolution is just another political move because, under well-established Supreme Court precedent, it’s non-binding and lacks the force of law.”
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) voted for the resolution days after releasing a statement about the U.S. airstrike.
“The drone strike in Iraq ordered by the Trump administration is yet another reckless action made with no regard for the checks and balances set out by our Constitution,” she said. “Such provocative actions will put even more lives, both at home and abroad, in danger.”
“We have an entire generation of people and children who have only known a United States at war. We cannot stay silent as this lawless president recklessly engages in actions that move us closer to yet another unnecessary war that will undoubtedly result in more bloodshed,” Tlaib added. “The president is not a king and this is not a monarchy, this is a democracy. Therefore, as a co-equal branch of government and the body with the sole authority to declare war, Congress must clearly say no to war with Iran.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) released her own statement on the airstrike.
“Qasem Soleimani was an evil man responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people,” she said. “However, I deeply fear the consequences of this action, which was made without consulting Congress, or our allies and partners in the region. Congress must be briefed on the administration’s strategy, and we must be prepared for an almost certain escalation of activities and conflict in the Mideast, as well as the safety of Americans throughout the world.
“We must act as Americans, not as Democrats and Republicans in understanding the situation, protecting America and safeguarding our national interests, allies and partners. Any escalation of U.S. military involvement requires Congressional authorization, and the administration must come to Congress for an Authorization for Use of Military Force as required by the Constitution.”
In a letter written to Trump Jan. 5, Islamic House of Wisdom Imam Mohammad Elahi said there was no need to escalate tensions in the Middle East, which already suffers from decades of death and destruction.
“You may see Soleimani as a terrorist but now tens of millions of Iraqis and Iranians marching behind his coffin, are honoring him as a charismatic leader, and collectively condemning your action and they categorize it as act of terrorism,” he wrote. “So, I can see a lot that you lost out of this killing and wonder if you accomplished anything!”
Elahi also addressed Trump and Soleimani in relation to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.
“If you truly hate ISIS and you are serious about fighting ISIS, you would have known for sure that Soleimani was the real force behind defeating ISIS,” the letter read. “He should have been rewarded as an honest ally in fighting terrorism and saving American lives and be rewarded for it.”
In another part of the letter Elahi added, “As a man of faith who loves America, Iran, Iraq and every part of God’s planet, I am saying that you were absolutely wrong in what you said and did in the last few days about Iran and Iraq. It was not worth it to create this mess to distract our nation from the impeachment process or mobilize your political base for the November election. This life is too short and political pleasures are so petty to be exchanged with moral values and principles.”
In Dearborn Heights, a Stand Against War with Iran press conference was held Jan. 9 at the Islamic House of Wisdom, 22575 Ann Arbor Trail, where faith leaders from metropolitan Detroit stood in solidarity with the Iranian American community.
Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive, said anytime there is an act of military aggression by the United States in the Muslim world there tends to be domestic repercussions for the American Muslim community.
“We are concerned that the escalated tensions between America and Iran has given federal enforcement officers the excuse to ramp up ethnic and religious profiling of Iranian Americans and American Muslims who have recently traveled to Iran,” he said. “The invasive questioning of American citizens while re-entering their own country without evidence of potential criminal activity should never be acceptable under any circumstances.”
Shireen Smalley of the National Iranian American Council-Michigan chapter spoke on behalf of Iranian Americans, being one herself, saying it was a difficult time following the airstrikes.
“We find ourselves — not just Iranian Americans, but Iranians, Americans and Iraqis we are all on a brink of a possible war which would be devastating for all of our peoples,” she said. “I want to emphasize that this has happened in such a short time so we can give accountability and hold those responsible for bringing us to this point in history.”
The Rev. Jill Hardt-Zundel of Central United Methodist Church of Detroit emphasized that the United Methodist Church states that war is incompatible with Christian teaching.
“If we are to live into our mission of transforming the world, we have prioritize collaboration among nations, work to reduce the use and need for weapons and foster just, equitable and durable solutions to the root causes of conflict,” she said. “As people of faith, we condemn the United States’ dangerous aggression towards Iran including the assassination of Gen. Soleimani and the deployment of additional troops to the region. We urge the administration to step back from the brink of war.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])