Fallout continues after President Donald Trump ordered an air strike on Thursday that killed a top Iranian general.
The move has raised tensions across the Middle East and led to the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to the region.
In Greenville, residents had mixed emotions about the evolving conflict.
As he sipped coffee on Sunday afternoon at Barnes and Noble, Patrick Nag, 37, of Greenville said he was unsure about whether the strike to take out Qassem Soleimani was the right move.
“If (Trump) thought American assets were at risk, I think he did the right thing,” Nag said. “But there could be a problem in terms of retaliation and things like that. I like Trump, and I think … he’s not a warmonger.”
Nag said that he wants to see the evidence that Soleimani was plotting attacks and thinks Trump should have done more research before ordering the strike but also acknowledged that decisions like this are not easily made.
“Sometimes you have to make quick, emergency decisions, and I hope he met with people and he got proper intelligence that something was happening like American bases were under attack, and in that case, he preempted that attack,” Nag said. “In a way, if that’s the case, I think he did the right thing.”
Richard Montgomery, 80, of Belhaven, a retired English professor at the University of Wisconsin, agrees with the strike.
“Soleimani was a bad man,” Montgomery said. “He was an Iranian citizen and an Iranian general. On the other hand, he was essentially a combatant operating in foreign countries.”
When it comes to diplomacy, Montgomery said the United States has tried that to no avail.
“It becomes a pretty tricky, legal and diplomatic problem,” he said. “I think, however, given the U.S. governmental response over the last eight, 12 years or so, something like this was probably inevitable. Trying to be diplomatic and make nice didn’t work. It only exacerbated the problem.
“I tend to think it’s the right move,” Montgomery said. “I think it’s a potentially dangerous move but I think it was the right move and I think there’s a fairly good chance this is not going to lead with war to Iran. Because Iran may hate the United States but they’re smart enough to know that if they actually went to war, they’d essentially be vaporized.
“They would lose in a major way,” he said.
He also pointed out that Trump’s action was not a declaration of war, which would have required authorization by Congress.
“It’s a response to the attack on the United States Embassy, which is legally and technically United States soil, which was led by Soleimani.” Montgomery said. “Because it was not a formal declaration of war, there is not a legal or historical requirement that he consult with Congress. If he had consulted with Congress, there would’ve been the same kind of inaction that occurred over the last eight, 12, 15 years or so.”
Over at Buzz Coffee in Greenville, two East Carolina University students offered their perspectives.
Matthew Gibel, 27, of Greenville who studies computer science, doesn’t really know what to think about Trump’s actions in Iraq.
“It’s a complicated mess, and it’s already been done, so I don’t know what can fix it,” Gibel said. “I think he should’ve consulted people that know things about the area. I’d like to see everything to be peaceful.”
He also criticized the president’s actions when it comes to being diplomatic.
“I feel like this president has done zero diplomacy whatsoever. This president is a joke. It is a way to shake things up,” Gibel said.
Victoria Long, 22, of Greenville who is a dental student at ECU, also was undecided about whether Trump made the right decision.
“It’s hard for me to say whether it’s a victory or not,” Long said. “(Trump) is the leader of military. I think technically he has that right to do those sort of things. I think that is under his umbrella to do so. But I do think that President Trump needs to be someone that does take into account Congress and what other people have to say.”
What troubles Long the most, however, is that government spending on the military likely will increase.
“I’m not a proponent of the government spending all the money on military,” she said. “Now, I think that’s only going to increase and worsen and that’s unfortunate.”
She added that Trump’s decision to carry out the strike may help his election prospects.
“Trump boasts about what occurred, and he’s kind of using this as leverage for re-election and avoiding impeachment,” Long said.
If that is the case, retired school teacher Willie Butler, 68, of Greenville who was interviewed downtown near Five Points said such a move would be egregious.
Butler expressed disappointment with the president’s actions and called the strike a knee-jerk reaction.
“I have no love lost for (Soleimani),” he said. “At the same time, there’s consequences for actions.
“I hope there was some compelling reason, and (the U.S. military) needs to explain what’s going on to the American people,” Butler said.
“This isn’t a campaign promise; this is serious,” he said.