WASHINGTON. D.C. — On the heels of an announcement Thursday that the U.S. military had killed Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top military leader, one Iranian advocacy group in the South Bay is preparing for heightened security risks.
“Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him,” President Donald Trump said during a press conference Friday.
Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, was killed by airstrike in Iraq, where protests by Iranian-backed groups in Baghdad earlier this week forced the U.S. embassy to go on lockdown. The White House designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization last year, and now the assassination of the IRG’s leader adds to the mounting tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
In 2017, Trump instituted a travel ban restricting the entry of people travelling to the United States from seven countries, including Iran. The ban has prevented family members of Iranian-Americans from coming to the U.S. and the State Department has a severe travel advisory in place for Americans looking to travel to Iran, warning they could be kidnapped or arrested.
Paris Etemadi Scott, the legal director at the PARS Equality Center, a nonprofit in San Jose that provides social and legal services to 6,000 people a year, said her group will customize its monthly “know your rights” workshops to address concerns about how the heightened tensions may affect any pending immigration petitions for family members in Iran.
“If tensions escalate and war breaks out, God forbid, then they are really concerned about the safety of their loved ones,” Scott said.
Up until now, Scott says the Iranian community has felt very safe in San Jose and they have not employed security personnel to guard the property. But now, PARS is considering taking precautions to keep visitors safe.
“I want to make sure that Iranian-American community members — who are not familiar with PARS — know that during this period of crisis that we are here, our doors are open,” Scott said. “They can come here and have tea and meet up with other community members.”
In Washington, the Senate met for the first day Friday since the holiday recess. Republican senators lauded Trump’s decision to strike, but Bay Area lawmakers in the House are questioning the president’s move.
While drafting the yearly bill that funds the Pentagon last year, Fremont Congressman Ro Khanna proposed including a clause that would prohibit the military from attacking Iran without consulting Congress. His amendment passed in the House, but a final compromise presented in the Senate after negotiations with the White House and the Pentagon omitted his amendment.
“When we removed these amendments, Congress signaled weakness to the Executive Branch and suggested the Administration had a blank check to trample over the legislative branch,” Khanna said. “It was a colossal blunder to approve the NDAA without those amendments as we abdicated our power of the purse.”
Khanna and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced Friday they are proposing new legislation to ban any further attack against Iran. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo both issued statements citing concerns with the fact that the White House did not consult with lawmakers before taking such a momentous strike.
“Shockingly, President Trump consulted only with Republican Congressional leaders, an ominous departure that has chilling implications for our democracy,” Lofgren said.
“The bipartisan leadership of Congress must be briefed immediately as to why this provocative act was carried out, what actionable intelligence it was based on, and what the Administration’s plan is,” Eshoo added.
But San Jose State University professor Karthika Sasikumar says that’s no surprise — and Trump isn’t alone in making these types of executive decisions involving foreign affairs.
“There’s been so many actions that are carried out by the executive, by the president in Washington since 9/11 basically that have gradually taken power away from Congress,” she said.