What Should Trump do on Iran? Absolutely Nothing

By Ladan Ahmadi

As an Iranian-American, I am watching the widespread protests in the country of my birth and dreading the government’s response. Not the Iranian government — we already know how that repressive regime will act in the face of democratic action. Rather, my anxiety is about the American government. Donald Trump could easily bumble his way into a disaster for the Iranian people. So my profound hope is that the he and his government do nothing.

This feeling about Trump isn’t limited to Iran policy. I won’t recount the myriad ways that I abhor the President and everything he represents. They are far too numerous to mention.

By contrast, a few years ago I had the opportunity to attend a Nowruz (Iranian New Year) celebration hosted by Michelle Obama at the White House. As my mother and I stood in line at the gate, we were surrounded by dark features, big smiles, and Farsi. The feeling of welcome — of our presence finally being recognized as an important part of American culture — was overwhelming. My mom snapped a selfie with Iranian superstar Andy, while I marveled at the elegance of Iranian-American Yara Shahidi, the star of the hit TV-show Blackish. Inside, the lavish lunch spread was prepared by prominent Persian chef Najmieh Batmanglij, whose oil-stained cookbooks adorn my kitchen. Introduced by comedian Maz Jobrani (who called the experience the “highlight of a lifetime”), the First Lady gave a rousing speech that was both personal and transcendent, somehow capturing the weight of the moment for so many in the audience. She emphasized the importance of celebrating our nation’s diversity and lifting each other up. “We are a nation of immigrants,” she said, as the room full of immigrants cheered in awe and agreement. Never was there a moment that I had felt more as if I had “made it” in the country I call home than on that day.

Fast-forward a few years, and we now have a president who was elected on “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the US.” Iran is on the list of the six nations for which travel to the U.S. has been halted. The Iran nuclear deal, “decertified” by the president, is at risk of being dismantled. And now, Iran is experiencing deadly protests on a scale comparable but arguably more significant than the 2009 Green Movement. So far, President Trump has responded with unhelpful tweets and threats that the “U.S. is watching!” Meanwhile, a fast-approaching deadline will force Trump to decide whether to continue waiving US sanctions on Iran and certify their compliance with the nuclear deal or follow through with his irresponsible vows to pull out of the agreement. Indeed, Trump has done everything exactly wrong in dealing with Tehran from the moment that he decided to run until today.

Now, Iran is experiencing deadly protests on a scale comparable but arguably more significant than the 2009 Green Movement.

It has been an emotional journey for Iranian-Americans these past few years, particularly for the older generation, many of whom felt hopeful when the nuclear agreement was signed and relations seemed to be warming. There are ups and downs in all immigrant stories, but rarely is there such a period of stable leadership and growing sense of community followed immediately by such chaos, incompetence, and bad faith.

With Nowruz just a few months away, Iranian-Americans are left with a palpable sense of dread. This year, there probably won’t be a message from the First Family wishing us all a happy and prosperous new year. More likely, the day will simply go by without acknowledgement from Trump or his administration, and that’s just fine considering the alternative.

With Nowruz just a few months away, Iranian-Americans are left with a palpable sense of dread.

But as Iranians embark on the arduous and dangerous journey to freedom from an oppressive regime, they need thoughtful rhetoric and careful actions by world leaders. They need recognition that they are part of a larger global movement and the space and support to take back their country. So that means that they need President Trump to not send hypocritical and impulsive tweets; they need him to not provoke the Iranian hardliners who are hoping the U.S. makes a mistake that they can exploit; and they need him to keep the status quo with the nuclear deal and allow Congress to keep it intact. Any Trump involvement in Iran other than nothing would surely be nothing short of a disaster.


Ladan Ahmadi is a first generation immigrant from Iran and Senior Media Relations Manager at Third Way.