Students with ties to Middle East share perspective on U.S. involvement in the region

Ian Feld, Co-Editor

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In December, the U.S. made headlines as it carried out a remote air strike in Baghdad, Iraq and killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who had for years tormented American troops in the Middle East, setting off a chain reaction that quickly escalated to a shockingly close call with a major conflict and public outcry over the bombing. Ordered by President Donald Trump, the U.S.’s killing of Soleimani is hardly the first instance of violent foreign policy in the Middle-East, and, as seen through the lens of Middle-Eastern-Americans, it represents all that is wrong with U.S. diplomacy. 

Born in Yemen, Farah Thabet, senior, moved to the U.S. at age 14. Unlike many Americans who might find it more difficult to point the finger domestically, she asserts that the U.S. is to blame for the excessive violence of the region. 

“Innocent people are getting hurt because of [U.S. involvement],” Thabet said.

America has a history of meddling in foreign politics in the region. This has often led to large scale conflict, either between warring Middle Eastern nations or with terrorist groups. Though claims to promoting democracy abroad resound in Washington, the true interest lies in the oil reserves located in the Middle East, which is noted by Emma Al-Samaraiy, junior and the daughter of an Iraqi father. 

“I feel like in general, U.S. involvement in the Middle East is unnecessary,” Al-Samaraiy said. “They’re involving themselves in century-long conflicts in an attempt to get the oil and gain power in the region.”

This sentiment is echoed by Alara Stewart, freshman, whose mother is Turkish. Stewart takes it a step further and believes the nature of U.S. involvement is purely out of economic interest.

“The way they use the Middle= East is exploitative and it involves them interfering with politics,” Stewart said. “We need good relations with the Middle-East [because of the oil].”

Regardless of the U.S.’s motivations, the killing of Soleimani undoubtedly borders dangerously close to a war crime—if not a severe lack in judgement—according to Stewart, who feels that, beyond that, could easily be the spark for future deaths in an area that is already war plagued. 

“If a war started, it would be the Iranians who would suffer,” Stewart said of the current crisis. “Fortunately it looks like this one is settling down, but it could definitely happen in the future.”

Furthermore, as Al-Samaraiy notes, the only thing the assassination accomplishes is further aggravating an already fragile political system in Iran. 

“Solemani wasn’t a good person by any means, but he did things to stabilize the Middle East,” Al-Samaraiy said. 

Hailing from Lebanon, Nacim Hassoun, senior, sees the current situation as just another instance of the U.S. sticking its nose into foreign affairs it should steer clear of and a perpetuation of unneeded violence.

“[By killing Soleimani], you’re not only endangering the Iranian people, you’re endangering all of the people in the Middle East,” Hassoun said. “It’s been a battleground for so long and the U.S. is just introducing more conflict.”

Hassoun has family and friends in Lebanon. She fears for their safety when events like those of recent occur. 

“Every time I hear something that has happened because of the U.S., it’s difficult because I have family there and I can’t do anything about it,” Hassoun said. 

The U.S. and Iran have an eventful past consisting of a hostage crisis, a crumbling nuclear deal, and now rising tension in a conflict that neither side can afford any further missteps in. Hassoun may sum it up best when she examines the argument that the U.S. needed to do something about the threat Soleimani posed to Americans.

“Even if it was a retaliation, there are better ways to go about fixing problems,” Hassoun said.