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Trump and the Iran Nuclear Deal

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Iran’s ever-evolving nuclear aspirations are far from breaking news to most of the world. For over two decades, the country’s desire to continue developing its nuclear program has dominated global conversation. In 2015, years of ongoing negotiations with Iran finally concluded when the U.S. and five other world powers agreed to lift sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s banking and energy sector in exchange for restrictions in Iran’s nuclear program. Now, almost a year after it’s inception, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, will undergo a fresh round of opposition as the new Trump administration prepares to take office.

Snubbed by many as nothing more than a bunch of politicos beating a dead horse, the Iran deal was the culmination of over twelve years worth of negotiations between seven states and the European Union. Under the deal, Iran maintains the ability to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. It agreed to refine its metal to no more than 3.7 percent enrichment, the level needed to fuel nuclear power plants.

Iran also pledged to limit its enriched-uranium stockpile to 300 kilograms, 3 percent of its stores over the next fifteen years. In return, the UN, EU and US agreed to lift sanctions and slowly release more than $100bn in assets frozen overseas.Throughout the course of his campaign, president-elect Donald Trump advocated for a more aggressive Iran policy. Trump pledged that dismantling the Iran deal will be a top priority once he steps into office, calling it “one of the dumbest deals ever.”With less than a month away from being sworn into office, Trump will soon have the opportunity, and the domestic political authority, to reverse the deal in its entirety.

However impulsive Trump may be, reversing the Iran deal would be ill- advised, if not unrealistic. Among other reasons, abruptly dismantling the Iran deal now would serve to isolate the US not just from Iran, but from everyone who participated in the negotiations and who would undoubtedly be affected by the US’s actions. First, renegotiating the Iran deal will be difficult, if not entirely impossible, amidst international pressure to keep the deal’s essential framework in tact. Changing its terms would require the cooperation of Iran and the other signatories: China, France, Russia, Germany, the U.K. and the European Union. Just a few weeks ago, the European Union reiterated its “resolute commitment” to the JCPOA and called for the upholding of commitments by all sides.

Moreover, pulling back now is unlikely to reverse effects already set in motion by the year-old nuclear deal. History rarely- if ever- provides refunds. The fact remains that however strongly critics disapproved of the Iran nuclear deal before its inception in 2015, a deal was still reached. Abandoning the agreement post-facto will neither turn back the clock nor put the US, Iran, or any other world actor back in the same position as it was pre-JCPOA. For better or worse, the sociopolitical climate has since shifted. Since the Iran deal, cooperation between Iran and Russia has strengthened immeasurably. There has been a rapid expansion of communication and economic relations between the two countries, including efforts made to facilitate travel and waiver visa for the two countries’ nationals; negotiations for the establishment of a joint investment bank; agreement for investment by Russia in Iran up to USD 40 billion; and the opening of two lines of credit worth five billion USD and two billion USD by Russian banks. Iran-China ties have also expanded in the post-JCPOA period. With the lifting of sanctions, Sino-Iranian communications as well as various military-to-military exchanges have developed between the two countries. Similarity and interest in developing military technologies to counter U.S. systems struck a resonance between both countries as Iran began to engage China in purchasing several of its military technologies including anti-ship cruise missiles, long distance air-to-air missiles and sea mines.

On a separate note, it is important to acknowledge that despite recent claims of revamping some of its nuclear technologies, in the past year Tehran has reduced its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent, placed two-thirds of its centrifuges in storage, and disabled a reactor capable of producing plutonium. Abrogating from the deal now, or even threatening to do so, would in all likelihood cause Iran to rethink its own compliance. In light of Trump’s impulsive comments, Iranian leaders including Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, immediately warned that Iran is ready to build a new nuclear enrichment plant the moment the other side violates the nuclear deal.

It is too early to say with complete certainty what position Trump will take once in office regarding the JCPOA. To be sure, pushing back on Iran in the Middle East and continuing to shrink the Islamic Republic’s nuclear aspirations will be an important priority of the incoming Trump administration. However, the international consequences of tearing up the Iran deal in its entirety would only serve to escalate already high tension between the US and Iran.

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Feature

Response to “10 Reasons Persian Jews Support Trump,” Afshine Emrani’s Opinion Piece in the Jewish Journal

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Afshine Emrani’s opinion piece states that his “strong impression is that most Persian Jews in Los Angeles support Donald Trump.” Days before it was published, he wrote on his personal facebook, “Question for my ‪#‎Persian‬ ‪#‎Jewish‬ friends who support ‪#‎Trump‬. Why?” He did not ask the same question to his Persian Jewish followers who are Hillary Clinton supporters. So what gave him the impression that most Persian Jews in Los Angeles support Trump? As an American Persian Jew, I am here to tell you that I would never vote for such a xenophobic, bigoted candidate as Trump and I know many more who feel the same way.  The arguments in the opinion piece are weak, and some of the claims are complete fallacies. You can read more on each claim here.

Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric towards immigrants and minorities is truly disconcerting. He has offended almost every single minority group in the United States, including Middle Easterners and Jews. He has proposed a ban on Muslims, referred to undocumented immigrants as “rapists,” and called the federal judge hearing his fraud case on Trump University “biased” and “corrupt” solely because of his Mexican heritage. He refused to disavow David Duke and The Klu Klux Klan, posted anti-semitic imagery on his twitter and declined to apologize.

The United States Refugee Act of 1980, with the assistance of organizations like HIAS, gave Persian Jews, including my family, the chance to flee religious persecution after the Iranian Revolution and seek asylum in the United States. They left a country that treated them like second-class citizens, and came to a country that celebrates religious freedom. Donald Trump has proposed a suspension to President Obama’s plan to take in refugees from the Middle East. These are people fleeing a familiar vehement religious oppression our families endured. Our relatives were fortunate enough to come to this country. It would be very difficult for them to enter under Trump’s proposed program suspension.

History has taught us that as Jews, we shouldn’t take it lightly when individuals in power threaten to uproot groups of people based upon their religion. As Iranian Jews, we personally know how it feels when this happens. I am not speaking to you as a Democrat or a Republican, as a conservative or a liberal, but as a Persian Jewish American woman who was raised on the values of acceptance, compassion, and humanity. We are proud to be a part of this great nation of immigrants, and we refuse to back a candidate like Donald Trump that espouses hatred and racism.   

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Opinion

SCARED SINGLE PART TWO: Money, Debt, And Entitlement En Route To Marriage Among First-Generation Americans

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The Scared Single series is a glimpse into modern dating and the hurdles millennials face on their road to the chuppah.

Financial strain is one of the most-referenced stressors on a marriage or marriage-minded relationship.

The display of and perception of wealth plays a massive role in how singles choose their mates.  Namely, both males and females are enticed to use marriage as an opportunity to alleviate future financial worries and/or to publicly overstate their financial positions.

Decades ago, as new immigrants, our parents did everything to establish themselves in a foreign country.  Some had the luxury of seeking higher education, but most hustled to put food on the table.  Almost everyone struggled financially at one point or another, and many of the eventual success stories involved humbly “starting with nothing.”

As the community began an acceleration towards affluence, and as the community became synonymous with luxury, pressure to display status grew.  

Against this new backdrop of affluence, our generation began to establish itself through seeking higher education.  Caught in nearly a decade of the effects of a global recession, maintaining merely the status quo of the wealth we were surrounded by seems more challenging – at times, out of reach.  Indeed, the expectation of financial security exists this generation in a way that it never had before.  The fact of the matter is that most young professionals have debt from their educational pursuits, yet the trajectory of the community’s flashiness still seems to dictate the priority with which we give financial status while dating.            

Today, each gender uses code words to gain insight into how a future with a prospective mate may look like.  Women reference education, career, drive, ambition to gauge a man’s financial potential.  Men ask, “Is she down to Earth?  Low maintenance?  Does she work?  Does she come from a ‘good’ family?”, to gauge financial expectations.  There is a common thread in these inquiries – will we, as a couple, ever struggle with finances?  

So many of us wish to establish the unbreakable bond we see in our parents, and yet we just don’t want to live through the beginning of the story.  More telling of our generation’s desire to steer clear of any difficulties is this need, this – dare I say entitlement – to be free of financial worries in marriage.  

The tremendous pressure surrounding money creates a tense dating environment, which disincentivizes communication about the role of finances in marriage.  Even more so, the environment creates the incentive to show that you have more than you actually have, often contributing to broken engagements, rising divorce, and a feeling among singles seeing it all play out that enough may not be enough.  

We all know this, and yet, we continue to close our eyes en masse.  The ever-growing trends within the community continue to revolve around displaying financial status.  Every component of a relationship-gone-public incorporates the need to exhibit wealth – even after the wedding.  If you’re single, you automatically picture yourself in place of the couple and wonder how in the world there’s an endless budget for parties.  If you’re a married man, you pray your wife doesn’t get any ideas.  Co-ed bridal and baby showers?  Live-in nurse post-partum?  Over-the-top bris?

When did the average person become entitled to such luxuries?  And why now, at a time when it’s hard enough to find someone in the first place, have such obscene gestures of spending been mounting?  

And if you can’t have all of that, regardless of the fact that you know you won’t be paying for it…does marriage become less fulfilling?

I understand this overwhelming desire to show the world that you’ve made it.  

To the singles waiting their turn or en route to marriage – continue to hold traditional notions of partnership and building a family from nothing in high regard – resist the urge to substitute substance for status.

Additionally, I challenge those among us who are happily married – parents included – to simply consider the context of their public actions.  It is time to embrace, and publicize, the evolution of the modern-day (two-income) couple for the betterment of the community at large – will you accept the challenge or continue to scare us single?

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Community

Those free-loading uncharitable Persians!

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Ever since an email from MyAish’s Rabbi Yitz Jacobs went out with the subject “My Aish is Closing Down,” the community is abuzz with the causes of the unsustainability of such an impactful outreach programing reaching so many Persian Jews. An educational program that literally touches thousands of lives annually, one that has been the sole catalyst for countless LA Jewish youth reconnecting with their Jewishness, and the impetus to many happy marriages, is on the brinks of closing down.

To my dismay, as the chatter intensifies, accusations of Persians being “uncharitable”, “cheap” and “freeloaders” can regularly be heard in conversations decrying recent developments. Besides for not being constructive, such broad claims don’t stand much weight when one considers the sheer number of Persian Jewish organizations that have been built in Los Angeles using charitable funds for their existence. Over 20 synagogues, a multi-million dollar interest-free educational loan society, $100k plus appeals for the State of Israel, and several foundations set up to help the poor in our community, are just a few initiatives whose funding have come mainly from Persian Jews. (Not to mention The Skribe website and print magazine was launched with donations from this same community.) And for those that care, such derogatory attacks on an ethnic group is possibly Lashon Hara (See link if you don’t believe me).

So if we are not “cheap uncharitable freeloading” Persians, the question still remains: why is it so hard to raise funds from Persian Jews for such instrumental Jewish educational programs such as MyAish?

A cursory perusal of the Jewish educational system of Iran of the past two generations might shed light on the situation we find ourselves.  By the mid 1900s, the Jewish education system had changed from small privately funded “mullah” based education to more modern philanthropically funded Western-style schools like Alliance Israelite (Etehad) and Otzar HaTorah (Ganjeh Danesh). The reality is that the generous and massive funding for these new schools almost exclusively came from European and American Jews and not Persian Jews themselves.

There is no doubt these schools were the foundation for the continued Jewish life seen in Persian Jews outside of Israel. With that said, perhaps a side effect of the unpaid Jewish education created a cultural habit of dependence and expectation that ‘others’ will take care of the Jewish education of the community.  To further solidify this habit, those looking for Jewish education after escaping Iran to the U.S. found tuition-free refuge within the graceful organizations like Rav Tov, Chabad Lubavitch, and Ner Yisrael.

If my assumptions are not incorrect, one can perhaps understand one of the reasons why it is so hard to collect funding for Jewish education from a community that in reality is relatively charitable and extremely wealthy. The culture has become accustomed to others splitting it’s own Jewish education bill.

Regardless of the causes of this expectation of outside funding for Jewish education, the reality is that for any Jewish community to survive, Jewish education must be championed.  This is so important that, halachically speaking, the funding of a Jewish educational system takes priority over charitable funds and even synagogues (Click Here for details).

One does does not have to research the many communities whose Jewishness have become a relic of the past to find links between Jewish Education and Jewish Continuity.

One has to simply ask: what is becoming of  the Iraqi Jewish Community of Los Angeles? A community rich in Jewish culture and history who seemingly chose to invest its resources into a grand synagogue instead of a Jewish school system. The grandiose and beautiful 500+ seat Kahal Yosef Synagogue on Santa Monica Boulevard can now barely make a quorum of 10 during certain services. To the dismay of many in their community, among the sea of Persian attendees, a person would be hard pressed to find the grandchildren of the original Baghdadi founders still attending the synagogue on a typical Shabbat. It’s extensive library is void of readers and the thousands of Jewish books collecting dust. To the extent that Synagogue participation is an indicator of Jewish engagement, although the community is very charitable, the Jewish engagement of the community as a whole is in jeopardy. Simply put, synagogues don’t build Judaism, Jewish education builds Judaism!

If we care about Jewish continuity we have an obligation to seek out the institutions that are teaching the most Jewish values and support them.  At this critical juncture of our community’s future, where loss of Jewish values is increasingly affecting our youth, we all have an amazing opportunity to affect change by supporting Jewish education and outreach. Regardless of our community’s past, this opportunity is wide open for everyone to participate; Let us seize the opportunity!

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june, 2018

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