America has always been a beacon of hope, a shining city on the hill. We stand for justice, peace, opportunity and respect for human dignity.
Growing up in Iran, I can attest to the affection everyday Iranians have toward America. The hearts and minds of teachers, family and friends, bus drivers, physicians and entrepreneurs are aligned with the values of Americans. That is why so many Iranians, including my family, immigrate to the United States.
The Iran presented by the media is not the Iran I know, not the one I left nor the one I have visited. The overwhelming majority of Iranians are pro-America.
There was no coverage of the tens of thousands of Iranians holding a candlelight vigil for the victims of 9/11 or the speech Iranian President Mohammad Khatami made in which he said, “On behalf of the Iranian people and the Islamic Republic, I denounce terrorism and the killing of defenseless people, and I express my deep sorrow and sympathy with the American people.”
Yes, there are hardliners in every country, including Iran, that have been using bombastic rhetoric, such as “death to America” to gain traction. I strongly condemn these statements and believe that an overwhelming majority of Iranians do as well.
I wish I could remind Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the mutual friendship and support between Iran and Israel from the early 1950s until the Revolution in 1979. During those years, Iran was an ally of both Israel and the United States.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have brokered with Iran is good for the U.S. It promotes stability in the Middle East and provides security for Israel, as confirmed by statements from current and former Israeli officials, including the Israeli intelligence community and military. It gives the International Atomic Energy Committee immediate access and inspection to nuclear sites and 24-day notice to military installations, stops work on developing a nuclear weapon and provides for swift punishment if the agreement is breached.
We are well-aware that military action alone has not produced the result we desire in the Middle East. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will ultimately cost $6 trillion, led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and gave rise to ISIS.
Economic sanctions placed on Iran in 1979 and strengthened in 2003 have not restrained Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In 2003, Iran had 200 centrifuges for enriching uranium. In 2015, there are 19,000. Isolating Iran has not been effective. The JCPOA acknowledges that Iran can develop a nuclear bomb if an agreement is not made.
Without this agreement, Iran will continue rapprochement with other Western countries, and the United States will have chosen to cede her position as a global leader. The British, German and French foreign services are in Iran now with their trade delegates. Our European allies will see us as lacking seriousness and principle. The absence of U.S. support will ultimately create a vacuum resulting in ever-increasing Russian and Chinese leadership.
We are witnessing a Middle East that is imploding and needs our leadership for pathways to stability. The humanitarian crisis in Europe is an alarming example of what happens when we don’t engage in diplomacy balanced with the use of force. This agreement, I hope, is just the beginning of a comprehensive U.S. strategy that transcends presidential elections, for bringing the region into peace.
By engaging Iran, a country where more women graduate from college than men and which has the most Internet users of any country in the Middle East, we show our support for the moderates and those who have condemned their country’s nuclear ambitions. Trade with Iran will expand the middle class, engage the U.S. with the 18th largest economy in the world and cut off the black market trade that members of the Iranian regime have been profiting from since the sanctions were imposed.
President Richard Nixon opened diplomatic relations with communist China, and President Ronald Reagan negotiated arms treaties with the Soviet Union. As a Republican, it pains me to see not one member of my party in Congress showing support for this diplomatic solution.
The U.S. has an opportunity to encourage multiple generations of Iranians. We can be a nation that promotes peace and opportunity or conflict and despair. Will the youth in Iran know America through smart bombs or smartphones? We can use this opportunity to engage a nation of future allies or we can repeat mistakes of the past, cultivating future enemies.
The decision is ours.
Darius Assemi of Fresno is a builder, farmer and philanthropist.