‘I’m worried’: Local Iranian-American reacts to airstrike, brewing conflict between U.S., Iran

Iranian-American Mike Gahvarehchee

Mike Gahvarehchee escaped from Iran 35 years ago, leaving behind friends and family for the promise of a future in America.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Mounting tensions between the U.S. and Iran have thousands of Americans on edge, but for one Spokane man, this conflict is personal.

Iranian-American Mike Gahvarehchee has watched as President Trump has threatened attacks on Iranian cultural sites should Iran retaliate for the airstrike that killed its top military leader, General Qassem Soleimani, last week. Pres. Trump said the airstrike was ordered in response to an imminent threat on American lives.

“Yeah, I’m worried about you know, people, friends and family I have in Iran,” Gahvarehchee told 4 News Now. “I don’t know how wise that was. Was that a wise decision or not? And why now?”

Gahvarehchee escaped Iran in 1983 when he was just 18 years old, leaving behind his family and friends for the promise of a future in America.

“If you’re opposed to it, you end up going to jail or you know, you’re being killed… And I think that’s a pretty good cause to leave a country,” he said Monday. “There [were] so many things going on in Iran and I didn’t see a future for myself to stay in Iran and I escaped Iran through the mountains between Iran and Turkey.”

Two years after his escape, Gahvarehchee was legally in the U.S. — now, his worlds are colliding as Iran is promising revenge, while Pres. Trump has said he has targeted 52 possible sites for attacks in Iran — one for every American citizen held in the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis.

“I do have family and friends and yeah, I’m concerned with what’s going on — as everybody is,” Gahvarehchee said.

Members of the Trump administration have repeatedly said the world is a safer place without Gen. Soleimani.

It is impossible to overstate the significance of the attack that takes out Soleimani,” said retired Gen. David Petraeus. “This is bigger than bin Laden and Baghdadi.”

“This was a bad guy, we took him off the playing field. That’s important. Because this was fellow who was the glue, conducting active plotting,” said Pompeo.

Some Democrats, though, have questioned how imminent of a threat Soleimani was to the U.S. while arguing the airstrike may have made matters worse if the president does not have a strategic plan for how to move forward. Videos of Iraqi Parliament members chanting “death to America” have recently surfaced and thousands gathered Monday in Tehran to mourn the loss of Iran’s top military leader, whose daughter pledged revenge on the U.S.

“If you ask Iranians, he was a hero,” Gahvarehchee said. “On our side here, we see him as a bad guy.”

Over the weekend, Iran said it will no longer abide by the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement brokered by the Obama administration — the same agreement President Trump pulled out of in 2018.

Pres. Trump reiterated one of his Tweets Sunday night, telling reporters on Air Force One “they’re allowed to kill our people, they’re allowed to torture and maim our people, they’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people, and we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way.”

Members of his cabinet have tried to walk the president’s statement back, as that could be considered a war crime.