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Iran’s youth fear future after Trump abandons nuclear deal

Iranian youth use their mobile phones as they rest at a park in Tehran, Iran, 16 May 2017. REUTERS/TIMA

As the sun sets on Iran’s two consecutive years of economic growth, hopes of a more prosperous future slowly dwindle as the country prepares to embrace new and insuperable US sanctions, after president Donald Trump decided to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.

Bazaars, local shops and restaurants wait patiently for customers, as politicians and the public ponder on whether the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was ratified in 2015, was no more than a pyrrhic victory.

Residents who placed their aspirations in a more financially affluent future, await their verdict, as the European Union scrambles to maintain the deal, in an attempt to thwart Iran from shunning the West and instead pursuing its nuclear ambitions.

The pact, was supposed to foment peace and stability within the region. However, members of Iran’s youth are concerned its denouement is set to bring turmoil to their country.

*Reza Shirazi, 21, who lives in Tehran, believes the greatest consternation is war with the US or Saudi Arabia.

‘The possibility of military conflict with the US is serious now. I’m anxious of tensions increasing with Saudi Arabia too. Also, economically our prospects are dim,’ he says.

‘The possibility of military conflict with the US is serious now. I’m anxious of tensions increasing with Saudi Arabia too. Also, economically our prospects are dim’

Trump, who described the agreement as ‘defective at its core’ as he announced the US’s withdrawal in early May, has pledged to sanction any European business which continues to trade with Tehran. His decision, has strained the US’s relations with some of its longest standing allies and has disrupted oil markets, while simultaneously heightening tensions in an increasingly volatile Middle East.

However, the president’s latest Obama-era policy reversal is not just damaging for global peace and the credibility of US brokered foreign policy agreements, but for those who live in Iran, who have endured decades of tenacious sanctions.

According to a report, which was commissioned last year by the country’s Ministry of Roads and Urban Development and subsequently reported on by the Iranian news agency Tasnim News, 33 per cent of Iran’s 80 million population live in poverty.

*Leyla Khosravi, 28, who lives with her family in Tehran, believes that without the US the deal is worthless.

‘The US is the largest economy in the world, so remaining in the deal without it as a member is a joke.

‘The outstanding five countries who still want to keep the pact, especially the European nations, can’t without the US.

‘The most important reason why people voted for president Hassan Rouhani in 2017 to serve a second term was because of the nuclear deal.

‘However, Trump has announced he will sanction any European business which trades with us, so the agreement has no value.

‘We must now begin to prepare for poverty and inflated prices for essential products like food and medicine.’

Trump’s decision has already had consequences for Iran’s economy and foreign investments. The French energy supplier, Total, has since announced it will be withdrawing from its $1bn (£750m) gas project due to US sanctions. What’s more, members of the Iranian diaspora are concerned of the consequences of the US’s withdrawal too.

*Maryam Ghadaree, 21, who lives in north London after leaving Iran in 1999 with her family to come to the UK, says she is ‘worried’ about her relatives who live in Iran.

In April, Ghadaree’s uncle and aunt were refused the right to travel to the UK to see her and her family, after their visa applications were rejected by the British Embassy in Istanbul.

The two individual visa refusal letters, seen by the New Internationalist, state that Ghadaree’s family members were denied entry because of worries they would not ‘leave the UK’ at the end of their visit.

‘The pain was palpable. My family have never visited us in the UK and I was extremely saddened by the decision,” Ghadaree says.

‘Now that Trump has decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, I expect the situation will become even more difficult for those wanting to travel abroad, while economic conditions are set to worsen.

‘One of my cousins owns his own business and I’m concerned about how he will manage. Also, many of my other relatives who are only in their twenties are just beginning their careers in an extremely volatile economy. It’s going to be even harder for them now.’

Iran’s brain drain is a prominent issue, with the International Monetary Fund previously describing the country’s human capital flight as one of the highest in the world. Dire social conditions, a stagnant economy and human rights abuses have made the country an unattractive place to live, especially, for young people.

‘My greatest worry is maintaining peace. I don’t want to see a civil war or an invasion, which could see Iran plagued by death, as was the case in the 1980s due to the war with Iraq’

Youth unemployment in Iran increased to 28.4 per cent in the last quarter of 2017, signaling a stark future for the country’s largest citizenry bloc, with over half of the population being under 30.

However, *Mohsen Kharimee, 59, who lives in Hertfordshire is more worried about the geopolitical future of his county and is afraid war could ensue.

‘Whatever happens in Iran will affect all Iranians and all families.

‘My greatest worry is maintaining peace. I don’t want to see a civil war or an invasion, which could see Iran plagued by death, as was the case in the 1980s due to the war with Iraq.

‘If the European nations ask Iran to refrain from meddling in other countries they should adhere to it. If they keep the Europeans on their side, Trump will be outnumbered.’

Trump cited Iran’s ballistic missile programme as one of his reasons for abrogating the pact and has previously criticized the country for not living up to the ‘spirit’ of the deal.

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council and author of Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy believes the decision will have damning implications for the youth of Iran, but doubts Trump’s stance will receive much international support.

‘Iran’s economy will certainly take a hit with Trump aggressively going after countries and companies trading with Tehran. But it remains very difficult for Trump to get the same international buy-in for sanctions that Obama had.

‘Trump’s decision to renew enmity with Iran will have a devastating effect on the youth of the country who had hoped that they could reconnect with the world following the successful negotiations over the nuclear issue. Trump is really showing his hostility towards the people of Iran with this move.”

In late May, US secretary of state Mike Pomepo, threatened Iran with the ‘strongest sanctions in history’ and said he would ‘crush’ Tehran’s proxy groups.

During his address, Pompeo announced a list consisting of 12 requirements which Iran must meet before negotiating a new deal. One of the demands included withdrawing all of its forces from Syria.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has since responded to the requests and said that the era of the US making decisions for the rest of the world were ‘over’.

Daniel Khalili-Tari is a half-Croatian and half-Iranian journalist and is interested in geopolitics, social issues, culture and the Middle East. He was born in London where he continues to live.

*The real identities of Reza Shirazi, Leyla Khosravi, Maryam Ghadaree and Mohsen Kharimee have been protected for the personal safety of their family and themselves.


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