On Thursday, Jan. 2, the Pentagon confirmed that American forces had killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport, sharply escalating tensions between the United States and Iran. A week later, members of the Knoxville chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America gathered to protest potential war between the two nations.
Soleimani was a Major General of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and commander of its Quds Force, a division of the IRGC specializing in extraterritorial military and intelligence operations. The Quds Force has been recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. since 2007, given its support of organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and various Shia militias in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
In retaliation for Soleimani’s death, the Iranian government hit two Iraqi military bases that house American troops with a barrage of ballistic missiles early Wednesday morning local time, resulting in no casualties.
In response to these escalating tensions, DSA members, veterans and allies met in Charles Krutch park at 5 p.m. to express their opposition to war.
Kevin Andrews, a member of Knoxville’s DSA chapter, said that the group had planned the protest as a part of the ‘No War With Iran’ coalition. The coalition, which includes groups like MoveOn, Indivisible, and the National Iranian-American Council, planned over 370 events to be held today across the country.
Andrews also talked about the group’s motivation for sponsoring the event.
“We just want to make sure that people know that they can stand up against these wars. They can get out and fight. The only way to fight is through solidarity, and we will be out here again as is necessary,” Andrews said.
Dan Warren-Castillo, another DSA member, said that the killing of Soleimani marked a potential tipping point for the U.S. to enter into more protracted fighting.
“At that moment, it started to become pretty clear that we were looking down the barrel of basically another never-ending war, like we currently have in Iraq. All of the old guard wanted to get together and start to build up an anti-war movement -- at this point, with how much the Iraq movement kind of has fizzled out, it’s just building from the ground up almost. [We’re] just doing everything we can to try to avoid catastrophe, and that is another endless war,” Warren-Castillo said.
Despite raising fears of escalating violence, Iran’s government has shown signs that its strikes on Wednesday were intended to resolve the situation. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif tweeted, “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense,” in regards to the attacks.
“We do not seek escalation or war but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” Zarif added.
What’s more, Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force, said that Wednesday’s strikes were not intended to cause casualties.
“We did not intend to kill, we intended to hit the enemy’s military machinery,” Hajizadeh said.