June 14, 2014 at 1:00 am

Iraq crisis stirs unrest in Metro Detroit

Observers believe turmoil could lead to a civil war like in neighboring Syria

Iraqi men who volunteered to join the fight against a major offensive by jihadists in northern Iraq climb on an army truck outside a recruiting center in the capital Baghdad on June 13, 2014. Iraqi forces clashed with militants advancing on the city of Baquba, just 40 miles north of Baghdad, as an offensive spearheaded by jihadists drew closer to the capital. (ALI AL-SAADI / AFP/Getty Images)

As Iraq hurtles toward civil war, Arab- and Muslim-Americans in Metro Detroit say they are worried about the consequences of further unrest in the Middle East.

Despite their fears, several residents were adamant about one thing: They don’t want the U.S. to get involved.

“They should leave them alone,” said Mariam Thalji, 20, a Palestinian-American clerk at King Health Mart Pharmacy in Dearborn. “You don’t see people coming to America and telling us what to do.”

Two Iraqi-American sisters and their cousin, who were eating dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings in Dearborn, worried about how their family in Iraq would deal with the burgeoning violence.

But the three said they, too, thought the U.S. should stay out of the mess. They said the country was better off under dictator Saddam Hussein.

“It’s ruined now,” said Mona Nagim-Eldeen, 18, of Dearborn. “Another country will probably take it over.”

Other residents lamented the continued fighting and its impact on the country.

Naitham Islim, 42, of Dearborn said the fighting has never stopped in Iraq and will probably continue for decades. “The civil war is already happening,” he said.

President Barack Obama said he is looking at options for halting the insurgents who within the past few weeks have seized control of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, and Tikrit.

Administration officials said Friday short-term options included airstrikes, increased surveillance and intelligence gathering and increased aid, including money, training and equipment.

The two insurgent forces — the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — have stated they will soon march on the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

The insurgents reportedly have met little or no resistance from the U.S. trained Iraqi military.

Eide Alawan, spokesman for the Islamic Center of America, wants to see other Middle Eastern countries — especially Saudi Arabia — help preserve the fledgling democracy.

“They have stood by and done nothing these last years to help Iraq form a democratic government. They need to weigh in politically, monetarily and militarily,” said Alawan, a native born American of Iraqi heritage

The last U.S. troops withdrew from the country in 2011 after more than eight years of war at a cost of 4,475 Americans killed, 32,220 wounded and $1.28 trillion.

According to the journal PloS One Medicine, an estimated 460,000 Iraqis died during the war and occupation.

Imam Husham al-Husainy, of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center, said the problem isn’t going to be solved militarily.

“Yes, we are teaching soldiers how to fight but we must also train people how to vote, how to build up democracy there,” said al-Husainy, who was born in Iraq and has lived in Michigan for more than 20 years.

“We need to be clear in our policy in the Middle East because the whole place is dividing and burning. We send in weapons to help the Iraqi prime minister, then we send in arms to the terrorists in Syria.

“God forbid, but I think Iraq might go the way of Syria.”

tgreenwood@detroitnews.com
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Sena Abdullah, right, and her friend, Mikael Everly, both 15, talk about ... (Jose Juarez / Special to The Detroit News)