Iranian-Americans gloomy about prospects for detente with Tehran

3 min

Vienna (United States) (AFP)

They are relieved but hardly at peace: Iranian-Americans in a town outside Washington say that even as tensions with Tehran ease, they're not optimistic about prospects for real detente between the two long-time enemies.

"I hope, I wish, that war is not going to happen," said Massoud Mossadad, owner of a grocery store specializing in Iranian and other Middle Eastern products in Vienna, Virginia.

The community is home to a sizeable chunk of the estimated 80,000 Iranian-Americans in the Washington area.

"Unfortunately, if it happens, imagine how many people will lose their husband, their parents, their sons," said Mossadad, 63. He has lived in America for 40 years after leaving his country following the Islamic revolution of 1979.

He and others spoke Thursday after the United States and Iran apparently stepped back from the brink of war following the US killing in a drone strike of the powerful Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in Iraq last week.

Iran fired a barrage of ballistic missiles towards Iraqi military bases housing US troops but none were hurt. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Iran was apparently "standing down" after the world feared a major conflagration.

Trump issued a call for peace, but in the grocery store and elsewhere in Vienna, people of Iranian origin were anything but upbeat.

"I was very scared because my mom is supposed to leave for Iran in two weeks to visit our family after a long time," said Mitra Davani, a 37-year-old dentist.

Iranian-born but living in Vienna since 2005, Davani said she was particularly shocked by Trump's threats to attack Iranian cultural sites, in comments that caused an outrage because such an act would be considered a war crime.

Trump later backed away, saying he likes to "obey the law."

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"This is scary. My family comes from a town near Persepolis," Davani said of the remains of an ancient Persian city listed as a UN World Heritage site. She said it would be devastating if it were attacked.

She said she was skeptical of Trump's comments Wednesday that he was "ready to embrace peace with all who seek it."

"It does not come from the heart. It is not his own words. It does not sit well. Hopefully his advisors advise him well and everything will calm down," Davani said.

Parvin Garakoui, speaking at one of Vienna's Iranian restaurants, also said she was very scared.

"The US and Iran governments think about themselves and we are in the middle," said Garakoui, 37. "There is no hope" for the future."

Garakoui has been a permanent US resident since 2009 thanks to a lottery system that Trump wants to do away with.

Since Iranians are denied entry to the US under Trump's travel ban targeting several mainly Muslim nations, Garakoui says she feels like a second-class resident of the country.

"I have a lot of family in Iran. My cousins are of a draft age. They can be drafted... I can't bring them to the US because of the travel ban. If I can't bring my family I feel I am not really a citizen," said Garakoui.

But 80-year-old Edy Sharifi is one of the few who remains calm and optimistic.

He says Iran has everything to lose in an open conflict with the United States and will negotiate behind the scenes.

"I believe nothing will happen. America will never attack Iran, ever," said Sharifi, who runs an oriental rug store and came to the US as a refugee in 1984.

He practices the Bahai faith, which Iran sees as heresy.

Sharifi admires Trump, "the best president I saw in my life."

"He's strong. He knows what he is doing."