Losers in Iran deal: the younger generation in Iran

Commenters on both sides of the political aisle have lined up in the past week to criticize or sing the praises of the declaration from Lausanne, Switzerland, regarding negotiations with Iran. Our State Department says talks there resulted in a “preliminary agreement” between Iran and the G5+1 (Great Britain, France, the USA, China and Russia plus Germany) regarding nuclear enrichment and economic sanctions. Depending on whom you believe, either the western powers or Iran is the big winner. No one seems to note there’s a big loser who is forgotten in all discussions and whom the American side has ignored for years.

Five former Secretaries of State have written newspaper articles about the talks in Switzerland – three singing its praises and two saying it accomplishes nothing and leaves Iran on a path to nuclear weapons with no constraints.

Even the negotiators on our side of the table differ significantly over just what was accomplished. Conservative blogger Amir Taheri (who is fluent in English and Farsi) wrote in the Ney York Post a joint statement from the Iranians and the leader of the G5+1 is 291 words long while the official Iranian text (in Farsi) is 512 words and the text from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is 1,318 words long. No one can say how much of Kerry’s much-longer text is wishful thinking.

The Iranians have declared the American side is not telling the truth. They say there is no signed agreement, merely a commitment to continue negotiations while sanctions are lifted. Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said this “preliminary agreement” will not put an end to Iran’s enrichment activities. And State Department Spokesperson Maria Harf this week tried to walk back comments Obama made in the Rose Garden last week praising the agreement with Iran.

Clearly not everyone is reading the same piece of paper — if there even is a piece of paper.

Returning to an earlier comment, there’s one population that has been written off by both sides to the Iran negotiations: millions of Iranians, particularly the younger generation, who are not avid supporters of the mullahs or their medieval theocracy.

Photographs of pre-revolutionary Iran show young Iranians in colorful clothes playing in beautiful parks and enjoying each other’s company. Especially noteworthy are the tens of thousands of women in classrooms, flying as fighter pilots, or walking with a boyfriend on tree-lined sidewalks. Their stylish clothes could have come from Paris or New York.

Since the 1979 revolution these women have been forced back into the shapeless black robe known as a burkha, have been kicked out of schools and universities, and have been relegated to the back of the bus. This population is now 35 years older than when the Shah gave up his throne.

For a brief time in 2009 the younger generation rose up in the Green Revolution to protest that year’s elections. They appealed to President Obama for help in throwing off the feudalism introduced by the mullahs. The U.S. refused to support them and now morality police patrol the streets looking for women out of burkha or wearing lipstick. And of course they’ve left their professions.

It’s unsettling a religion can suppress one-half their population and the rest of the world ignores it. It’s more unsettling U.S. negotiators can pretend our only differences with Iran are economic sanctions and nuclear enrichment. We should also demand Iranians be allowed to join the 21st Century.

LaSor is a retired Foreign Service Officer living in Minden.


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