Trump appears to have dangerously escalated tensions with Iran over a slain U.S.-Iraqi translator

President Trump
(Image credit: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Exactly one American is known to have died in the quick escalation of hostilities leading Iran and the U.S. to the brink of war. Until Tuesday, we didn't even know his name.

The Trump administration cited the Dec. 27 death of a U.S. contractor at an Iraqi base in Kirkuk to justify three U.S. airstrikes on the alleged perpetrators, the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah. Iraqi protesters and militiamen angered over the 25 people killed in those strikes converged on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad Dec. 31, breaching an outer wall and setting fire to an outbuilding in a bloodless display of anger quelled by U.S. and Iraqi troops. President Trump reacted to the embassy incident by ordering the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 2, prompting Iran's retaliatory ballistic missile strikes Tuesday on Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces.

So far, there appear to have been no Iraqi or American casualties from those strikes.

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Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the slain contractor in discussing Soleimani's killing but did not identify him. On Tuesday afternoon, The Sacramento Bee filled in the blanks, identifying the dead American as Nawres Waleed Hamid, a 33-year-old linguist from Iraq who spent the past few years working as an Arabic interpreter for U.S. forces. Hamid moved to the U.S. in 2011 with his pregnant wife, Noor Alkhalil, and became a naturalized citizen in 2017, Alkhalil told The Washington Post. The couple has two sons, 2 and 8.

Hamid was buried Saturday in Sacramento, his funeral expenses paid by his employer, Valiant Integrated Services, according to the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery. His widow tells the Bee she has no plans to move back to Iraq, but Hamid "was the only person I knew here." Valiant broke the news of his death, Alkhalil said, though she had suspected something was wrong. "It still doesn't feel real," she said. "It has been difficult to accept that he is no longer here."

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