My daughter knows the names "Laddan and Parhom." These are also the first two words that come to my mind whenever I hear the word Iran. Neighbors from upstate New York when I was very young, (so young I don't even remember having them as neighbors) Laddan and her mother Shahin are in many of my baby pictures, and thus the subject of my daughter's questions. A Persian family that like my own parents had come to the United States for graduate school, had children, and ultimately settled in America. We saw them off-and-on growing up and as they moved away a phone call once every few years was, as most neighborly relationships are, all the communication we had.
Our upbringing mirrored each other as many immigrants' families do. Summers with relatives, news of trouble in the "old country." Iran and Turkey both had coups in 1978 and 1980 respectively. The military coup in Turkey was short lived and civilian rule was reintroduced several years later. In Iran however, the coup or "revolution" did the opposite, it overthrew the military and the Shah in favor of a so-called "Islamic Republic." This made moving back to Iran difficult for many Persians that were already overseas. Uncertain what the future would hold, many waited to see what would happen, with many never returning.
In short, I know people from Iran. Growing up, I met many Persian people, some in college, some during my travels. I am admittedly very much fascinated by Iranians. Anecdotally, nearly all of them are well-read intellectuals with a strong grasp of their rich history. I have read books on the Persian Empire, admire Persian cuisine, watched documentaries about Iran, yet, unfortunately, have never been. It is therefore with great dismay and apprehension that I watch events unfolding now that will almost certainly make Iran's relationship with Turkey and the West deteriorate and most importantly adversely affect the people of Iran.
On Monday, the United States will reimpose sanctions on Iran that had previously been revoked following the "Iran Nuclear Deal." These sanctions make it near impossible for the Iranian government to trade in dollars or make financial transactions with the West. Iran has been selling oil, nearly three million barrels a day (worth around $200 million dollars), to China and India. It had been doing so before the sanctions were lifted and will probably continue to do so after the sanctions are reimposed. While the lifting of sanctions allowed for an additional million barrels to come online, post-sanctions this output will almost certainly stay the same. Why? The other signatories of the Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA (as the Iran Nuclear Deal is officially known) are hesitant to go back to a pre-deal arrangement and may continue to trade with Iran so that Iran lives up to its promises.
Having been to Venezuela last year, I have the seen the human cost of sanctions on the average citizen. The rich are always rich. The Iranian government will not suffer from these sanctions nor will the leaders in its government. The Chinese will continue to ignore the sanctions and trade in opaque transactions with the Iranians. This will lead to decreased government revenue and ultimately very little chance of development in Iran. Non-democratic regimes are only bolstered by sanctions. Sanctions give those regimes a great excuse and the ability to rile up the populous. A quick Instagram search of "Rich Kids of Tehran" reveals that the Mullahs' children are very well-off. Allowing for increased foreign investment in Iran will force it to be more open. Cross-cultural exchanges, an increase in the number of daily flights, and a ramping-up of tourism is the quickest way to allow for citizens of a country to realize what rights they are currently being deprived of. Sanctions did more to keep Fidel Castro in Cuba and the Kims in North Korea in power. Reimposing sanctions in Iran will only further strengthen the hand of the government and aggravate the suffering of the people. The Iranian rial is down nearly 90 percent since the beginning of the year and looks to be headed towards the fate of the Venezuelan bolivar.
Europe needs to take the lead in convincing Donald Trump that further sanctions on Iran will only be in the best interests' of the elites of that country.
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