HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The escalating conflict in the Middle East can be tough to understand and the details often difficult to break down.
So we took questions to a midstate professor who was born in Iran, and is offering expert insight.
“[Iranian] people do not have any problem with the Americans, people have problems with the [American] administration,” said Harrisburg University Professor of International Affairs & Business, Mehdi Noorbaksh.
He says the U.S.-Iran struggle goes back decades. A major turning point was when America sided with Saddam Hussien in the Iraq/Iran war; a war that General Qassem Soleimani fought in as a soldier.
Soleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad last week.
“After the end of the year, he came out of the war with that tendency of anti-Americanism,” Noorbaksh said.
He calls Soleimani a double-edged sword, a man who fought against ISIS but is also responsible for killing hundreds of Americans. His death, in Noorbaksh’s eyes, is only serving to unite the Iranian people in a showing of nationalism.
“A few weeks ago in Iran, there were huge demonstrations against the Iranian government and everything [now] is gone,” Noorbaksh said, also commenting on the crowds mourning Soleimani’s death. “Millions came out not because they are supporting the government, they came out because of what the U.S. did to Iran.”
President Trump defended his decision Tuesday, but still did not offer any specific evidence on U.S. intelligence.
“We had tremendous information,” said Trump. “We’ve been following him for a long time. And we followed his path for those three days, and they were not good stops. We didn’t like where he was stopping. They were not good stops. We saved a lot of lives.”
Noorbaksh said the President’s order was a blow to moderates in Iran who are for peaceful negotiations.
“In any country when you kill a soldier at whatever level, that instigates nationalism and that is a symbol,” Noorbaksh said, adding that many in Iran will see Soleimani’s killing as an act of war.
He says the military is highly regarded there, as in America and that diplomacy should have played a bigger role.
“The better approach overall is negotiations and talk and peaceful approaches,” Noorbaksh said.
Noorbaksh moved to America in the 1970s, and revealed he isn’t able to travel home to Iran due to his political activity and public commentary on various conflicts in the Middle East.