January 16, 2020
What do students know?
The dominating news for the early weeks of 2020 has been the ongoing tensions and military conflict between the United States and Iran. When CWU students were asked for their knowledge on the situation, nearly all heard that the United States is sending troops to the Middle East and most reported that their knowledge came from what they had seen and read on social media.
“As long as it doesn’t go to what the memes are telling me I should be fine, they’re all talking about world war three,” one student said.
“I know that someone got assassinated and the media has been making this person out to be the worst person ever, which I think is interesting when we’ve never heard of this person,”
The Perspective of an Iranian CWU Student
While many Americans and CWU students are learning about the conflict through memes of being drafted into World War Three, there are those here who have personal experiences with both countries.
Mohsen Asadalla is a senior whose family is from Iran. He was born and raised in Bahrain where he lived until he was 15 before immigrating to the United States to play basketball.
“I got crushed pretty quick,” Asadalla said of his basketball career. “It was difficult for me in the beginning. I was 15 years old and the difference in culture, not being with my parents and family was very hard.”
Asadalla is about to graduate from CWU with a political science degree. He hopes the degree will help him get a job related to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. He wants to bring awareness to the complexity of countries like Iran and the similarities between average people in the U.S. and the Middle East.
“We wake up, go to work, meet family because we’re very family oriented,” Asadilla said. “People so shallowly analyze the Middle East not knowing the cultural and religious complexities of the region…and that’s why the conflicts never end.”
For the past two decades, the largest military engagements the US military has taken part in within the Middle East have been in Iraq. This, according to Asadalla, can lead to people seeing most middle eastern countries through the lens of Iraq which can lead to underestimating Iran’s level of development.
“Iran is much different,” Asadalla said. “It would resist anything from the U.S. even though it realizes that it’s much weaker in terms of military capabilities. The people have a resistance factor, not giving in to a system that they’re not willing to give in to.”
Who is Qasem Soleimani?
Qasem Soleimani was a 62-year-old major general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who was regarded as the second most powerful person in Iran behind Supreme Leader Khamenei. On Jan. 3 General Soleimani was killed by an American drone strike at the Baghdad International Airport.
Soleimani was a popular and heroic figure in Iran according to a public opinion study by the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland and a decorated veteran in the Iran-Iraq war. According to Time, Soleimani directly collaborated with the U.S. to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and helped oversee the Kurdish and Iraqi forces as they worked to eliminate ISIS. However, he also worked closely with the government of Bashar al-Assad throughout the Syrian Civil War, helping Russia further its goals in the region and leading to the deaths of hundreds of American service members according to the New York Times. Soleimani was sanctioned by the United Nations and European Union in 2011 and was designated as a terrorist by the United States.