Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Maybe Games: U.S.-Iranian Relations

Tomorrow the U.S. and Iran might begin drafting the final terms of a nuclear agreement, which consists of Iran curtailing its nuclear programs and allowing for greater transparency and the rest of the world lifting nuclear-related sanctions that have been imposed.

As an Iranian-American, the idea of any type of interaction, much less an actual deal, between the two countries feels like a miracle. I clearly remember all the hubbub and excitement on the part of Iranians when Clinton and Khatami almost shook hands at a UN gathering. ALMOST SHOOK HANDS. This was about 15 years ago and I can remember the feeling that overtook me when I heard. There’s an initial feeling of euphoria when one’s mind automatically turns to if-only thoughts of a world where Iran and the U.S. get along. The euphoria is quickly replaced by pessimism when those thoughts are replaced by remembrance of the history between the two countries, followed by whispered eagerness and hope, quiet desperation, and finally despondent resignation. We wipe such ridiculous notions from our mind and march on with our torn lives.

So, where am I according to the five stages of U.S.-Iranian grief?

 I’m somewhere between quiet desperation (well, maybe not that quiet hence this post) and despondent resignation. Parameters have been determined:* However, parameters are not a deal. Plus, some Republican Senators signed an open letter to Iran stating that a deal now doesn't mean the deal will still exist come the next president. Plus, the U.S. has to go around selling the idea of the deal to other countries, including other Middle Eastern countries.

Also, fuck this deal. My biggest disappointment was the sanctions. I thought this would be a further reaching thaw of relations easing at least a few sanctions going back to the revolution. These sanctions were imposed to prevent Iran’s development of nuclear weapons: bans on supplying Iran with weapons and nuclear-related technology and equipment; some asset freezes; and a ban on trade of Iranian crude oil. Easing of the latter would help the flailing Iranian economy, which in turn would help the general population (one would hope). But . . .

I know, I know. Baby steps. This is a huge leap for U.S.-Iranian relations, but I’m greedy and I’m tired of feeling the ache of place that’s foreign, but would be comforting to me. I’m an immigrant who wants the opportunity to set foot on the land where I was born. Some Americans complain about being from some hole in a flyover state. I get so angry whenever I hear that. Do you know what I would give to be able to visit a place where, yes, I would still be considered a foreigner, but only after a double-take and some conversation? A place where the food and sounds with which I grew up would surround me like a security blanket? The only time I’m considered an American is when I travel abroad and people hear me talk. In America, it’s always, “Where are you from? What are you?” and even once, “What kind of Mexican are you?” (Thanks for the originality, Utah!) I have an ache to experience the place where I was born and my parents fell in love and my family toiled and struggled. Because when you flee your homeland as a child, the tear is small at first, but it grows and stretches as you grow. And the older you get, the bigger the tear gets until it’s a gaping hole that makes you want to crawl out of your own skin.

Don’t get me wrong: “I love America. America has made my fortune.**” I’m a Californian who votes even in the local elections and I beseech everyone else to vote. I take pride in performing jury duty and shame anyone that complains about it. If you believe that U.S. troops are defending U.S. freedoms, um, while abroad, then the U.S. judicial system is maybe the greatest freedom we have and any inclusion in it (excepting being a defendant) should be met with a patriotic hard-on so big, it makes Lady Liberty raise a naughty eyebrow. I just want the freedom to visit extended family and eat ghormeh-sabzi in the place where it was invented. It’s so hard without a light at the end of the tunnel. I’d even take a prophecy, “Illynew, you will be 64 years old when you can step foot in Iran once again.” But without that light, my life feels a little dimmer.

Really, how long can Iran be kept out of the international community and labeled as a pariah? Yes, some Iranian leaders say heinous things, but as far as starting wars and being aggressors, Iran is a minor actor. And how much do sanctions really work? How many governments have been toppled or even forced to give in to outside demands due to sanctions? Cuba? Nope. China? Nope. Russia? Wow, is that one a no. (A more eloquent round down of that topic): I’m so tired of being at the mercy (on both sides) of men who may have attended the same universities and, who knows, even joined the same fraternities. (Zarif attended U.S. schools starting at the end of his high school years through earning his PhD).

Things that people have forgotten or don’t realize:

1.      CIA Admits Behind Iran Coup in the 1950s (destroying a burgeoning democracy, putting in place an increasingly dictatorial monarchy, which the U.S. increasingly supported, leading to Iran’s Islamic revolution): &

2.      The U.S. has sold weapons to Iran post-revolution sanctions:

3.      This (only peripherally related to Iran, but one of my favorite things): (Donny Rumsfeld shakes hands with Sadaam Hussein) On second thought, it’s directly related. There seems to be an arbitrary enforcement of which bad actors get punished. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are close allies and Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations must exceed Iran’s. They behead. They stone. Women aren’t even allowed to drive. The Saudis are ISIS light, but they get away with it, because that country was established in the early 20th century, when might was right and the mighty drew their own borders. THE REAL: Saudi Arabia is a dictatorial, Islamic monarchy, which receives weapons from the U.S. & (Stock in Lockheed, anyone?).

5.      Iran and the U.S. have some things in common. I took an international law course in law school with a professor who was very dry. The best class occurred when we discussed international treaties/conventions. He would name a treaty then go on to say, “You know who hasn’t ratified it? The U.S., Iran, Somalia, and Rwanda.” Or some other mix. Frequently it was the U.S., Iran, and a country without a government to ratify the treaty.
a.       Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – The U.S. and Iran still seem to be contemplating the wrongness of discriminating against women. Way to go, . . . guys.
b.      UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – Maybe the U.S. and Iran have romantic notions of being awesome pirates.
c.       UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – Actually, Iran did ratify this. Despite Whitney Houston’s beautiful song, the U.S. does not believe the children are our future.
d.      UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – Also, ratified by Iran. The U.S.: We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps! Oh, whaaaaaaat? You don’t have legs (because we sent you off to war), so no bootstraps? Daaaaaaaaaamn. Sucks for you.

I’m just saying that, yes, there are pure evil governments, but Iran isn’t one of them. There has to be a way for the world to move on like it has with so many other countries.


**Amerigo Bonasera (in The Godfather)

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