A Decatur business owner left his home in Iran for America 45 years ago to get a college education and improve his quality of life.

But the man known as Ali still keeps up with the news from his homeland and said he wasn't surprised when a U.S. drone missile strike killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a member of a convoy near Baghdad, Iraq, on Friday.

“I knew it was going to happen sooner or later,” he said. “He brought that to himself. In general, I don’t want to see anybody dead. It was a consequence for what he did. That man was not a good guy. He’s done a lot of bad things to his people, people abroad and those in neighboring countries. He was not a very popular person with ordinary people in Iran.”

Ali asked that his last name not be used for the safety of his family.

“He planned or took part in the deaths of a lot of American soldiers,” said Ali, who moved to Decatur in the early 1980s after finishing college at the University of Tennessee and Alabama A&M. “He participated in creating proxy forces to kill Americans and other innocent people.”

Ali said the he is interested in seeing the reaction of the Iranian government to the 56 deaths and more than 200 injuries caused during a stampede at the funeral procession Tuesday in Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman, Iran.

“I’d like to think President (Donald) Trump is on the side of the Iranian people, not the Iranian government,” he said. “The government there is not representative of the people.”

Ali said he is somewhat bothered by the U.S. politics involving Soleimani’s killing.

“When Osama Bin Laden was killed (in 2011), everybody cheered,” he said. “This guy was just as bad. He’s done the same thing. Soleimani masterminded the killing of a lot of people, too. What is the difference? Why are Democrats so sensitive about this?”

The Associated Press reported the U.S. blames Soleimani for killing U.S. troops in Iraq and accused him of plotting new attacks just before he was killed in the drone strike. Soleimani also led forces supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war, and he also served as the point man for Iranian proxies in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, the AP reported.

Decatur artist Becky Littleton said she no longer keeps up with the daily activities of life in Iran after fleeing the country in the mid-1970s.

Littleton, her American contractor husband and their three young children had called Iran home for a couple of years when her husband died from side-effects of the flu, she said.

“The American embassy said I had no rights in that country since my husband was dead,” she said. “I was told I could lose my children, my goods. I had 20 minutes to pack my things and get on a plane. I had three small children and all we had was a backpack with shoes and clothes. I remember being so happy when the plane landed in Germany. I felt like I had rights again.”

She said a few years after her departure, a revolution put Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in control of the Iranian government.

“Things have not improved for the regular citizens,” she said. “We have to pray for them constantly. It’s like they all live in prison. They can’t do and say things and wear the clothes they want to wear.”

She supports the Trump administration for taking action against Soleimani.

“I feel like our government knows you can’t placate a bully,” she said. “There were not too many other things (we) could have done (with him).”

Iran struck back for the killing of Soleimani by firing a barrage of ballistic missiles early Wednesday at two Iraqi military bases that house American troops. Trump said no Americans or Iraqis were harmed during the missile strike.

Ali said he is uncertain what the future holds for his former country, but he remains optimistic.

“History tells me the truth always prevails,” he said. “If so, it’ll be a good thing for the Iranian people if Trump supports the good causes of the Iranian people. I would like to see the Iranian people live in harmony and peace with their neighbors. We have to remember the Iranian people and the Iranian government are different. They don’t represent the same thing.”

mike.wetzel@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.

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