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Westwood community members both supportive, doubtful about Iran deal

By Eliza Blackorby

Aug. 31, 2015 5:40 a.m.

Members of the Westwood community expressed mixed emotions as the Senate plans to vote on a nuclear deal with Iran that would lift U.S. economic sanctions in exchange for a limited Iranian nuclear program.

Westwood is home to a significant Iranian population whose families immigrated to Los Angeles to escape Iran after the Islamic Revolution. Persian Square, on Westwood Boulevard between Pico Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard, is home to many Iranian-owned businesses, such as restaurants that sell kebabs and Persian ice cream.

The deal aims to prevent Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons and nuclear program development. In exchange, the U.S. and other national partners like Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, would lift long-standing economic sanctions that would allow freer trade.

The deal provides for international oversight through announced inspections of Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, where Iran’s capacity for nuclear power is centered. Some sanctions may be reinstated if Iran fails to comply with the deal, by what the White House called a snapback provision.

Roozbeh Farahanipour, president of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Westwood resident of about 15 years, said he does not support the proposed deal because he believes it would not do anything to alleviate the human rights abuses committed by the Iranian government.

Farahanipour left Iran in 2000 when he was persecuted for his work as a journalist because he opposed Shariah law, an Islamic body of law that regulates behavior according to the Quran. He said he thinks the U.S. sanctions on Iran support human rights and freedom of speech in Iran.

Farahanipour said he believes the Iranian government already sponsors illegal activity and propaganda in the U.S. and that lifting sanctions may worsen these problems by allowing a legal flow of money between the two countries.

Sam Yebri’s family immigrated to Westwood over 20 years ago after Iranian officials forced them to leave Iran after the revolution, when Yebri was a child.

Yebri said he was concerned about the deal’s expiration date, saying the cutoff time would permit Iran to continue building nuclear weapons after 15 years. He added he thinks the deal’s snapback provision is incomplete and the inspection features are lenient.

“We are entering a deal that could leave us much worse off than we are today,” he said.

Yebri said he is hopeful members of Congress will veto the proposal. If they pass the proposal, he said he hopes they will strictly police Iran for violations.

The state of Israel strongly opposes the Iran deal, in part because the Iranian regime has not recognized Israel as a nation and has denied the Holocaust, said Rachel Frenklak, a rising fourth-year physiological science student and chairperson of Bruins B’yachad, an organization within UCLA Hillel.

Frenklak lobbied Congress to veto the bill with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the summer. Frenklak said she supported the attempt to work through diplomacy but believes the deal failed in multiple areas.

Frenklak said she does not believe the Iranian government is trustworthy enough to follow the provisions of the deal. She added she thinks the U.S. should exercise its economic and political power to negate the deal by imposing unilateral sanctions on Iran despite other countries’ approval of the deal.

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed, a recent alumna and former undergraduate student government transfer student representative, said she supports the deal as a progressive step towards mending relations between the U.S. and Iran.

Sadeghi-Movahed, whose parents immigrated to America in their youth, said she has many relatives in Iran who she rarely gets to see because it is difficult to travel between the two countries.

She said she supports the deal because it would help Iranian-Americans send money and medication to family in Iran and vice versa.

Sadeghi-Movahed added she knows Iranian students who struggle financially because their families in Iran cannot send them money for school, and students whose relatives in Iran died because they were unable to receive the medication they need from the U.S.

However, she also said she does not see the deal as a perfect solution.

“I don’t think the deal itself is going to proactively make the relationship between Iran and the U.S. better,” she said. “But it holds Iran to an international community standard that improves its society and its international stature with the rest of the world.”

Congress must vote on the deal by Sept. 17.

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Eliza Blackorby
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