In the Media

11/27/13: Iranian Americans, scholars react to historic Iran nuclear deal

Iranian Americans, scholars react to historic Iran nuclear deal

By Samer Hijazi and Natasha Dado

Wednesday, 11.27.2013, 08:09pm

Iranian and Arab Americans in communities across the country are expressing enthusiasm about the historic agreement between Iran and six world powers that was finalized on Sunday, Nov. 24.

The deal between Iran and the six major nations, which include the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, places constraints on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relieving some economic sanctions on the Islamic republic. The agreement also calls for more intrusive international monitoring of Iran’s much disputed nuclear program.

“I think it is not an exaggeration to say this is a historic deal, and I consider it a great victory for peace, diplomacy and dialogue,” said Iranian American Imam Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights. 

Elahi also congratulated Iranian president Dr. Hassan Rouhani, whom he met with in September along with a group of Muslim American leaders, following Rouhani’s address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. 

While he says the deal was good news for the entire international community, it was a painful defeat for the forces behind “Iranophobia.” 

He said much of the negative press on Iran in the Western media over the last few years has actually drawn attention away from other critical issues, such as Israel’s military occupation and illegal settlement activity, and Saudi Arabia’s support for terrorism.  

“What no one thinks about is that the Saudis are the biggest supporters of terrorism in the Middle East.  All they want to talk about is Iran, but no one talks about the real problem in the Middle East, which is the occupation on the Israeli side and terrorism on the Saudi side,” Elahi added. 

For decades, the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Iran has been sour. “Finally, wisdom won this diplomatic war. After having no diplomatic relations for decades and to sit down and have dialogue by itself is a big development regardless of the details of the agreement,” Elhai said. 

Elahi says Iran didn’t lose anything in the deal.  He noted that limitations on its nuclear program to prevent it from building a weapon were pointless, as the country never had any intention of doing that in the first place. 

Meanwhile, the recent developments with Iran seem to have thrown a wrench in U.S. relations with Israeli leaders. Hours after the historic agreement was signed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the media to voice his discontent, calling the development a "historical mistake."

University of Michigan-Dearborn Political Science Professor and Author Ron Stockton tells The Arab American News that despite Netanyahu's disapproval, the agreement will not have much of an impact on the American relationship with Israel in the long run.

"This is not going to make matters worse with Israel. Netanyahu has been openly hostile to Obama for a while now, campaigning against him during the last election. The relationship is tense, and not so positive, but it will not change the country's relationship with Israel in any final way," Stockton says.

Meanwhile, a poll conducted by ABC this week found that the majority of Americans are backing the agreement. The poll found that 64 percent of Americans support the nuclear deal with Iran, while 30 percent oppose it. Stockton believes the divide in opinion most likely comes down to partisan affiliations.

"Certain Republicans have come out and opposed this deal, and I think the public who follow those individuals are going to be negative about it. But most of the public will embrace the fact that we can do something without a war, which is certainly a plus," Stockton added.

Khalil Jahshan, a Palestinian-American Lecturer in International Studies, says the agreement made with Iran is proof that the U.S. can settle conflicts in the region without having to resort to war. 

"I would say that the U.S.-Israeli relationship is going through a crisis of serious magnitude that we haven't seen in a long time," Jahshan said. "For once, the U.S. decided to do what was best for this country and put behind what is the best interest for Israel."

Jahshan believes that the agreement is going to be a win-win for both the U.S. and Iran, as both countries could see significant benefits in coming months.

"This is an issue that has been nagging U.S. interests in the Middle East for several years now. But this can potentially save the Iranian region from economic instability and save us from an unnecessary war. It will open the door for the prospect of a good follow up, which could settle the issue in a permanent way, hopefully in six to twelve months down the road."

In Iran, residents have given mixed reactions to the news. While some continue to oppose the idea of progress with the six world powers, many young Iranians have spoken out in favor of the developments, hoping the elimination of previous sanctions will result in a turn-around for the country's unemployment rate.

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) this week released a statement applauding the recent developments between the two countries. NIAC urged both the U.S. and Iran to ignore radicals who will continue to make attempts to derail the potential outcome of the deal.

"Many obstacles and potential spoilers remain. Hardliners in both countries will work harder than ever to sabotage this pivot towards a diplomatic path. Those whose only currency is confrontation will search for any opportunities they can find to undermine and sabotage this interim deal," the NIAC said in a press release. "This is the beginning, not the end of the process.  The U.S. and Iran must continue vigorously pursuing a long-term agreement that can put the two countries on a sustainable path forward to peaceful relations.”