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Iranians Send Conflicting Messages To Trump Ahead Of Inauguration


Iranian-born visual artist Shirin Neshat is one of the signatories of a new letter calling on U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran.

More than 35 prominent Iranian-Americans, including artists and academics, have called on U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to preserve a nuclear deal with Iran by world powers and choose "diplomacy over sanctions and war" in dealing with the Islamic republic.

The January 5 letter warns that scrapping the nuclear accord would be a "disaster for both nations."

"It would also once again put the United States and Iran on the path of war," it warns of ditching the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) to curb Tehran's disputed nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

The letter comes days after 30 Iranian activists called on Trump to take a harder line on Tehran by imposing further sanctions and encouraging regime change there.

The nuclear deal has continued to have vocal opponents among hawkish ranks in the United States and Iran, as well as in Israel, since it was struck nearly 18 months ago.

Trump has called it "the worst deal ever negotiated" and said that dismantling it would be his "No. 1 priority."

Outgoing President Barack Obama has argued that it "blocks the four pathways to a nuclear weapon" for Tehran and "prolongs Iran's breakout time" -- the period it would take to produce enough weapons-grade uranium after deciding to build a bomb -- "from two to three months to one year or more if Iran broke its commitments."

In addition to the United States and Iran, China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom are all signatories to the agreement.

Iranian-Americans who signed the fresh appeal to Trump include author and historian Ervand Abrahamian, sociologist Asef Bayat, visual artist Shirin Neshat, and best-selling author Firouzeh Dumas.

They argue that sanctions and threats of war will only empower hard-liners who are opposed to any opening up of Iran, whose diplomatic and trade relations with the West have thawed slightly since the JCPOA came into effect in early 2016.

"Despite the fact that millions of Iranians disagree with many of the decisions made by their government, they welcomed the Iran nuclear deal," the letter says, adding that ending "the cycle of confrontation with the U.S." could create political space inside Iran for those pushing for democratic change.

"As we witnessed over the course of the last decade, sanctions and the threat of war only serve to empower Iran's hard-liners while harming ordinary citizens who represent the backbone of any possible positive change," the letter adds.

The United States has maintained sanctions on Iran over missile technologies and other weapons, international terrorism, and human rights abuses, and censorship.

Ahmad Batebi, an iconic figure of a 1999 student uprising against Iran's establishment, is one of the signatories of a letter urging the incoming Trump administration to take a tougher line against Tehran.
Ahmad Batebi, an iconic figure of a 1999 student uprising against Iran's establishment, is one of the signatories of a letter urging the incoming Trump administration to take a tougher line against Tehran.

The signatories of last month's letter urging the incoming U.S. administration to harden its line toward Tehran include former Iranian political prisoner Ahmad Batebi, an iconic figure of a 1999 student uprising against Iran's establishment, and Arash Sobhani, the lead singer of the popular rock band Kiosk.

They describe the nuclear deal as "disastrous" and liken Iran to the extremist group Islamic State (IS, also sometimes referred to as ISIS).

"The ISIS and the Islamic Republic of Iran are two sides of the coin that is Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. To end this reign of terror, the Islamic caliphate (ISIS) and the Islamic regime in Iran must be replaced with elected pro-peace and prosperity governments," that December 22 letter says.

"We ask the new administration to support the pro-democracy Iranians whose goal is to replace the Khomeinist regime of Tehran with a liberal-democratic government," it says, in a reference to the founder of Iran's Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini.

The letter further asks Trump to "expand the existing sanctions and impose new ones on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the supreme leader's financial empire" -- references to the military and security force that influences many aspects of Iranian life and the individual who has the last word in Iran's religious and political matters, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"We ask the incoming administration to develop a comprehensive regime of sanctions against those Iranian officials who have violated the human rights of the Iranian people over the last four decades," the letter says.

"We hope under your leadership the United States helps the Iranian people to take back their country from the Islamist gang which has been in charge for the last four decades," the letter says, adding that "the world without the Islamic republic and the Islamic State is a better place."

The hard-line Iranian daily Sobh-e No ran a front cover with photos of the signatories, calling them traitors who sold out their country.

The December letter led to criticism from Iranians inside the country who blasted it on social media and warned that sanctions most hurt ordinary citizens.

Some said the letter was effectively a call to war with Iran.

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