Iran Deal generates debate on campus ahead of vote

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - 4:10pm

The Iran Deal has dominated conversation in Washington since it was negotiated this summer, and many University students are joining in. 

Officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran Deal was announced in late July by the Obama administration. The JCPOA is a proposal designed to significantly decrease Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for reduced sanctions by the P5+1 countries — the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia and Germany.

If the deal goes into effect, Iran would be allowed to have a small amount of enriched uranium and materials. The permitted amount would not be large enough to create a nuclear bomb, according to experts. In return for reducing their nuclear supply, Iran would receive sanctions relief.

The deal has been lauded as a historic agreement by supporters. But for some University students, the deal hits close to home.

Maryam Arbabzadeh, a Ph.D. candidate in Natural Resources and Environment, is an Iranian student and a member of the Iranian Graduate Students Association. As an Iranian student studying in the United States, disagreements between the two countries have been challenging to witness. 

Arbabzadeh came to the United States several years ago to pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering. Due to tensions between the United States and Iran, there is no U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran — Arbabzadeh’s home city. 

According to Arbabzadeh further cooperation between the United States and Iran could help foster better accommodation for students.

“Iranians in the U.S. started the movement to show that they support the deal,” Arbabzadeh said. “There is a hashtag, #SupportIranDeal, because we want to show it all around the world and say that we support it.”

When details of the JCPOA were released in July, Arbabzadeh was home in Iran. She remembers people filling the streets and cheering, in hopes that the reduced sanctions would help bring lower prices for goods, such as food and medicine.

“My aunt had breast cancer last year, but the medicine she needed couldn’t be found, and was super expensive because of the sanctions,” Arbabzadeh said.  “I got it here for her and I went back home to give it to her.”

Politically affiliated pro-Israel groups on campus have voiced varied stances on the JCPOA.

J Street, a national pro-Israel organization, announced their support for the deal in early September. Though members of the campus chapter declined to comment, they said they agree with the statement posted on the organization’s website.

“Having studied the text of the agreement, J Street intends to back it and work hard for its implementation, making the case to Congress that this agreement serves the vital security interests of both the United States and Israel,” the organization wrote in their official release.

However, not all pro-Israel organizations on campus are for the deal.

LSA senior Daniel Pearlman is part of an organization called WolvPAC, a political  on campus that advocates for a stronger Israel-U.S. relationship. Pearlman said he has read the agreement himself, and does not feel that it is a good deal.

“I am for diplomacy and I am in favor of negotiation, even with a theocratic regime like Iran,” Pearlman said. “However, I am against this current deal because it fails to address numerous critical issues that are important — not just in my opinion, but also in the opinion of many other Americans and people who are living in the region.”

One problem that Pearlman has with the deal is that it does not include “anytime, anywhere” inspections on nuclear facilities and military facilities in Iran. 

Pearlman said WolvPAC is working on campus to educate others and encourage conversation about the deal.

“We want people to understand more about this deal, and why it isn’t necessarily the best option that we have,” Pearlman said.

The deal, which is under a 60-day congressional review, is expected to considered by Congress this month. Due to the nature of the deal as an international executive agreement, and not a treaty, Congress cannot vote to approve the bill. Instead, they will vote on whether or not to disapprove the deal. Many members of the Senate and House of Representatives are attempting to win a vote of disapproval, a ruling that would need to be subsequently vetoed by President Obama if the deal were to pass.

Many opponents of the deal say Iran cannot be trusted. Some also believe relieving sanctions from Iran would allow the country to use its unfrozen assets to funnel money toward terrorist groups.

It would take a two-thirds vote from Congress to overrule the president’s veto of a disapproval resolution, a number that is now unlikely. The necessary 34 Democratic senators have announced support for the deal — meaning they would not vote for a disapproval resolution.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) have both released statements in support of the deal. Sen. Gary Peters (D–Mich.) announced his support on Tuesday morning.

“The United States and our allies seek peace in the Middle East,” Dingell wrote in her statement. “We have two goals: promoting peace and keeping the confidence of our allies who need American leadership. The JCPOA helps support both of these goals, which is why I will support it.”

Most Michigan Republicans have released statements of disapproval. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, alongside Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, released a www.michigandaily.com/section/news/schuette-urges-states-impose-sanctions-iran letter to all 50 state governors encouraging them to impose state-regulated sanctions. Schuette argued that though the nation wants to lower sanctions in return for Iran’s cooperation, states could still impose their own sanctions.

John Ciorciari, assistant professor of public policy, said University students should stay away from distorted stories in the media.

“I think it’s very important for anyone interested in this deal to get beyond the nightly news, and especially beyond the often polemical stories on the evening cable news shows,” Ciorciari said. “Students should read the terms on the deal and read expert commentaries of a variety of perspectives.”