The Iran deal is personal to my family and me. It’s a symbol of hope and economic opportunity. Last week, the Senate voted to keep the deal intact — and the world is better and safer because of it.
I’ve traveled to Iran several times and have seen firsthand the effects of crippling economic sanctions. Iranians were being squeezed, businesses were struggling, and the country was not living to its full potential. The value of currency dropped and people were struggling to put meat on the dinner table. It was not a good scene. People were frustrated and constricted.
So for Iranians, this deal is important and long overdue. President Obama and Secretary Kerry managed to pull off a very hefty foreign policy victory that will more than likely make up a substantial part of their legacy. They managed to improve foreign ties with a country that has become less close to the international community ever since the regime was whipped into place.
Skeptics claim that we can’t trust Iran, but are easily willing to overlook the truly intrusive nature of the deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has unprecedented ability to inspect nuclear facilities and the deal cuts off any pathway for Iran to access a bomb for 15 years. Some restrictions are in place for as long as 25 years.
The question opponents of the deal should’ve been asking themselves is “what alternatives are there?” Another might be: “if we don’t support this deal what are we doing right now to limit Iran’s ability to build the bomb?”
The paradox is that opposing this deal doesn’t make you tough on Iran — in fact, it does the opposite. Opposing the deal means supporting the status quo, and the status quo has absolutely no restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.
Not to mention that opposing the deal as Senator Feinstein said in a tweet yesterday would have widespread implications that spread beyond Iran. It could signal a lapse in U.S. foreign leadership. I would take this a step further and say that opposing the deal essentially invalidates the legitimacy of our word because we entered these negotiations not alone, but with five other states.
For these reasons, it makes sense for the United States to stand firmly behind this deal, remembering that at any point if Iran doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain, sanctions can snap back into place.
There is no question that sanctions have devastated the economy and created a lot of angst among the people. The regime had many reasons to come forward and begin dialogue, as did the United States. Diplomacy was tried and prevailed. A deal was born that is fair, intrusive, and overall very good.
For those who acknowledge that the main point of the sanctions in the first place was to bring Iran to the table then the argument for opposing an intrusive and fair deal becomes a bit murkier.
Sanctions affect Iranians in many ways, including the obvious, like driving up inflation and poverty. Other results are less apparent, but no less consequential: Iranian airplanes, for instance, are old and outdated, resulting in unsafe air travel conditions and plane crashes costing innocent lives. People were becoming fed up and in many ways this was the impetus for a change.
It’s important to remember that Iran is very young. Over half the country is under the age of 30. The people of Iran are very different than the government of Iran. I’ve traveled to Iran many times and each time my broken Farsi very obviously alludes to my American-ness. But still, I’m treated with only respect and hospitality.
People ask curious questions, they want to travel and see our beautiful country, they take cues from our culture and integrate some within theirs, and finally they want to be included in our rapidly growing global economy.
The history between our two countries is plagued by distrust. The Iranian people long suspected that the United States and Britain plotted the 1953 Iranian coup of Prime Minister Mosaddegh. Because of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), certain CIA documents were declassified that basically confirms this.
As one might imagine, the Iranian people didn’t take well to this sort of international meddling. The theme of meddling will continue to be a powerful one in Iran for decades to come. For Iranians, many young, they’re inbred with a clear understanding of their past. And that past brews an unwavering level of nationalism.
For this reason, I believe Iranians are particularly protective of their right to a nuclear program — a program, by the way, that does not mean a bomb. An overwhelming majority of Iranians oppose a bomb with eight in 10 in support of the Nonproliferation Treaty. Iranians also by and large support the eradication of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
This deal allows for Iran to continue enriching uranium at levels that can only be used for peaceful purposes. It’s a truedeal, not a one-sided mandate. And because of the deal, the Iranian people are very excited about an opportunity to expand into the global economy.
For decades, Iran has been shut out of much of our global economy because of sanctions. But if they hold their end of the bargain, Iran can rise. The people and their businesses can become elevated. And as an unavoidable byproduct, people will become freer both socially and economically.
Humans of New York recently traveled back to Iran to capture stories. One story in particular speaks volumes to the resiliency and drive of the Iranian people. It also captures the divergence between the people and the government:
“Things are getting freer. Even a few years ago, I couldn’t wear what I’m wearing now without inviting rebuke. The scarves are getting brighter and looser. The sleeves are getting shorter. The laughter is getting louder. This is a very young country. More than half the population is under 30. Have you ever seen an Iranian child? They are the most mischievous children on the planet. If you want an Iranian child to do something — tell them not to do it. Tell them not to kiss. Tell them not to hold hands. Tell them to dress in black. Tell them not to use Facebook. This country is full of mischievous curious Iranian children. And the people who make the rules are getting older. And just like the Iranian parent, they are getting exhausted.”
This caption really resonates for me. I see it with my family members, who are constantly pushing the boundaries and breaking outdated social practices. My cousins wear makeup; their headscarves recede year after year. These small things amount to big changes, especially after time. From what I hear, a lot of things are changing — as I believe they must. Iran’s President is a moderate who frequently tweets unconventional and progressive messages.
For my family and for me, this deal is so important. It signals changing times. It also signals a thawing of relations that have been frozen for decades. There’s a sense of excitement that can be fully realized — as long as the deal is adhered to.
The people who make the rules are old and exhausted, and they’ll undoubtedly be faced with both opportunities and demands to embrace and adapt to an ever-changing society.
Originally published at genprogress.org on September 16, 2015.