News Wire

Cyrus Habib and Other Local Politicians React to Drone Strike

TLDR: They're a bit concerned.

By Benjamin Cassidy January 3, 2020

Cyrus Habib, Washington's lieutenant governor and an Iranian American, believes the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani will hinder reform efforts in the Middle Eastern nation.

Before Seattleites could finish their first cup of coffee this morning, #WWIII was trending on Twitter. Hours earlier, a U.S. drone strike had killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, further roiling a conflict between the U.S. and Iran that has escalated since the U.S.’s withdrawal from a 2015 deal intended to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

The Middle Eastern nation’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, didn’t mince words in response to the attack, which the U.S. Department of Defense said was motivated by Soleimani’s plans to harm “American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region” as well as his past role in the deaths “of hundreds of American and coalition service members.” Khamenei said that “a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands.” President Donald Trump said that the U.S. “did not take action to start a war.”

Though all Americans should feel the weight of this conflict’s potential consequences, Seattle may experience it a bit more acutely than many U.S. metropolises. Some in the city, for instance, may have been digesting the news while waiting in line at Cherry Street Coffee House, the Emerald City chain owned by Iranian American Community Alliance founder Ali Ghambari. The IACA has become an Emerald City fixture, spearheading plans for the annual Seattle Iranian Festival. The event is slated for June 27 this year.

"At this time, more than ever, we will continue to focus on building community and work to create a sense of belonging for all Iranians, Americans, and our neighbors in the Seattle area and beyond," the organization wrote in a statement about its reaction to the strike.

The city is also well-acquainted with Cyrus Habib. The state’s lieutenant governor became the first Iranian American to be elected to a state legislature back in 2012, according to the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans. Running as a Democrat from Bellevue, Habib wanted to focus on local issues.

“No part of me got involved in politics because I want to work on Middle Eastern foreign relations,” Habib told The Atlantic’s Kaveh Waddell in a 2016 story about Iranians in the region.

Yet, sometimes an event rises to the level of must-comment-on, so Habib provided the following statement today about the U.S. drone strike and its implications:

As both an elected official and as an Iranian-American, I am greatly concerned that the assassination of General Soleimani represents a new level of recklessness by the Trump Administration.

More than anyone else, Iranian Americans have reason to support reform in Iran. But we know that engagement and multi-lateral cooperation are the keys to ensuring American national security and regional stability. Yet whether it is by instituting the travel ban, by pulling out of the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], or by this most recent provocation, this administration has continually added fuel to this fire. Provoking the regime in this manner will only strengthen the hand of the hardliners in Iran and make reform that much more difficult. Now is the time for Congress to use its power to reign in the President and stop further escalation.”

As for the governor's take, a spokesperson from Jay Inslee’s office passed along that he is “watching these developments with deep concern and alarm.”

“There are several hundred members of the Washington State National Guard currently serving in the Middle East and our thoughts are with them,” Tara Lee, the governor's deputy director of communications, wrote in an email.

Here’s what several other Seattle-relevant pols had to say about U.S.-Iran strife.

Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat:

"No one wants to see an escalation with Iran. The President needs a strategy that involves working with our allies to find a diplomatic solution for the region. The President also needs to brief Congress on the intelligence that led to this strike, as well as the plan to protect Americans and allies from the repercussions of his actions."

Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat:

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat:

Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat: