Why Exiting the Deal Turns Our Back on the Iranian People

Trump did it — he made a big show out of his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Deal. In his speech, he also announced the snapback of U.S. sanctions on Iran. By tearing up the deal, he left America in a precarious position with respect to our European allies, China and Russia. But he also left hundreds of thousands of Iranian Americans, including me, uncertain about what the future holds for family members spread across both countries.

The reality is while Trump’s decision was shocking all saw it coming based on his rhetoric and actions the last three years. My heart ached when Trump, just days after being sworn in, enacted a Muslim Ban which thwarted my family’s travel plans and even resulted in a friend being denied entry into the U.S. despite being a student with an approved visa. My heart aches again this week thinking about the ramifications from Trump’s calamitous decision to yank us from the Iran deal and reinstate sanctions that chiefly hurt the Iranian people. What’s even more wounding, is hearing Trump say that he stands in solidarity with the Iranian people when his actions, first with the Muslim Ban and now with the reneging of the Iran Deal have only served to marginalize and hurt us.

As an Iranian-American, I’m deeply disappointed by his decision to tear up one of the hallmark foreign policy accomplishments in recent history and one made with world leaders. A deal that satisfied both U.S. and Iran interests — and global interests. A deal that gave me hope of rekindling relations between Iran and the U.S. Our governments have obvious disagreements, but I’m really talking about how this impacts people.

Since I was five, I’ve traveled to Iran many times over the years with my father. And all of the Iranian people that I’ve encountered have been fiercely generous, warm and welcoming. Over the last few years, with the announcement of the Iran Deal, Iranians were ever more optimistic that we were making significant strides toward repairing our decades-old feud. A feud that a new generation of Iranians — 60% of the country is below the age of 30 — were willing and eager to resolve.

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Tehran, Iran | December 2016

This agreement was also an encouraging step towards reopening relations with the West and expanding social freedoms in Iran. After years of crippling sanctions continued to hurt everyday Iranians, there was now hope to be integrated and free, socially and economically. The Iran Deal represented that hope, especially to the wide swath of the country who is young and support moderates, like Rouhani, over hardliners like Ayatollah Khamenei.

I’m worried that the subtext to Trump’s announcement is that Trump is instigating conflict by purposely sabotaging this agreement. After all, his own team, including his National Security Advisor, John Bolton, has said in no uncertain terms that they want a regime change in Iran before 2019.

When I think of Iran, I think of my cousins. I think of Gelareh whose wedding I was lucky enough to be a part of in 2015. I think about Ghazaleh who just had twins last month, who I haven’t had a chance to meet yet. I am protective of them but I also feel protective of being American. I was born in California and now I live and work in New York City — and I know, just like the people I met in Iran, the people I encounter here are warm and kind.

I know that his decision was not only unpopular, with two-thirds of Americans opposed to withdrawing from the deal, but it wasn’t rooted in truth or reason from our politicians either. So, I won’t forget Tuesday’s decision and I’m going to do everything in my power to organize my friends, family, neighbors, and my community to vote.

I’m not going to let Trump’s agenda of hate be what America stands for. But I’m afraid that America is on the road to another conflict in the Middle East.

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