After a weekend of anti-war protests sparked by an air strike ordered by President Donald Trump that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport, local leaders were united in believing that some sort of retaliation Iran was inevitable.
And they were correct. On Tuesday, Iran struck back in the form of missile attacks on two American military bases in Iraq which caused damage but resulted in no fatalities.
On Wednesday morning, Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and American military leaders, went on national television to say “Iran appears to be standing down,” and that the US will impose additional sanctions against on the country.
“These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior,” Trump said. “In recent months alone, Iran has seized ships in international waters, fired an unprovoked strike on Saudi Arabia and shot down two American drones.”
“I think it was a mistake,” Pasadena resident Nat Nehdar said of the president’s decision to authorize the missile attack on Jan. 3 that killed Soleimani, leader of Iran’s elite Quds Forces, which are answerable only to the theocratic country’s all-powerful Ayatollah.
“I don’t think it will achieve anything,” said Nehdar, a native of Iran who serves as vice chair of Pasadena’s Human Relations Commission. Nehdar said at the time that it was a virtual certainty that Iran would retaliate somehow, lest they appear weak in the eyes of the West and the Middle East.
“There is the potential for war,” Nehdar said. “It all depends on what Iran does.”
US Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said the air strike ordered by the president has increased, not lessened the chances of war with Iran.
“Soleimani was responsible for unthinkable violence and the world is better off without him,” said Schiff, who recently led part of the impeachment effort against Trump.
“But Congress didn’t authorize (it) and the American people don’t want a war with Iran,” Schiff said. “All steps must now be taken to protect our forces against almost inevitable escalation and increased risk.”
Meanwhile, the US State Department has urged all US citizens to leave Iran, as the US implemented plans to deploy thousands of additional troops to the Middle East.
“I can’t talk too much about the nature of the threats,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN on Jan. 3. “But the American people should know that the president’s decision to remove Soleimani from the battlefield saved American lives.”
In response to any possible threat, police agencies around the country have gone on heightened alert. Pasadena Police Chief John Perez said there are currently no credible threats posed to Pasadena as a result of the attack.
“Its obviously something for us to stay on top of. We are tracking it, but there are no threats,” Perez said. “Right now it’s a matter of staying aware. If you see something, say something. It works.”
On Saturday, The New York Times reported, the Department of Homeland Security updated its National Terrorism Advisory System, stating Iran “is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effects against critical infrastructure in the United States.” According to The Times, “The system’s bulletins, which are shared among law enforcement across the country, also reiterated that there was no current, specific, credible threat against the United States.”
Act Now to Stop War and End Racism and Code Pink began calling for nationwide protests on Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, ahead of the drone strike that killed Soleimani
Protests against growing hostility between Iran and the United States were initially planned in 10 to 15 cities and the number grew to 30 by Thursday, Jan. 2. When the general was killed near the Baghdad airport early Friday, the number of participating cities more than doubled, The Times reported. As of Saturday, Jan. 4, more than 80 protests were organized, said Medea Benjamin, a director of Venice-based Code Pink.
“One thing that’s very different this time is that more young people and people of color came out to protest,” Benjamin told the newspaper.
Democrats in Congress claim they were not informed of the Baghdad bombings before they happened and have been calling on the White House to brief them on the situation.
Critics claim that Trump is attacking a foreign government in order to stave off an impeachment trial, much as it appeared President Bill Clinton had done in 1998 when he bombed Sudan and Afghanistan prior to a House impeachment vote.
“The president does not have the authority for a war with Iran,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D- New York). According to Schumer, the president needs congressional approval for a large increase in troops “and potential hostility over a longer time.”
“This action may well have brought our nation closer to another endless war — exactly the kind of endless war the President promised he would not drag us into,” Schumer said.
During his campaign and well before he entered politics, Trump called on the US to leave the Middle East. During the campaign, he said the region was a “total and complete mess.”
In 2013, he tweeted: “Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.” That same year, he said the US should “stay the hell out” of the Syrian war.
In 2012, he said then-President Barack Obama would go to war with Iran to get re-elected.
“The Middle east is never going to settle down,” said Nehdar. “Sanctions have really hurt the economy, the sanctions won’t bring them to the table to talk peace. Obama’s nuclear treaty was effective and when Trump took over he wanted to erase everything Obama did and look what he created; Soleimani has become a martyr.”