For Iranians, the War Has Already Begun


by Elham Pourtaher

Not a day goes by without the Trump administration imposing a new challenge on us, the Iranian people. Those who think that the travel ban has been the hardest obstacle for Iranians need to catch up with latest foreign policy developments. Encouraged by Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisors, the Iranian people today face an increasing risk of military attack by the United States. Also, the Iranian currency has lost 80 percent of its value since last year, mainly reflecting the collective sense of fear caused by the increased sanctions and the decertification of the Iran nuclear deal, as well as the increasing empowerment of the most undemocratic factions of the Iranian state. Trump has proudly taken credit for bankrupting an economy that feeds 80 million people, and he has recently promised to reduce Iran’s oil export to zero.

Iran is only marginally reflected in the U.S. news, which means the American public does not hear voices that express the human suffering caused by the U.S. government far beyond its borders. The murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, Trump’s best ally in the region, is a rare instance of attention given to the nature of America’s allies and Iran’s opponents in the Middle East. Pro-democracy Iranians worldwide are experiencing a political trauma. They feel alienated from both internal and world politics. They are unable to communicate the debilitating pain of, on the one hand, expecting a military attack by the United States and on the other, the worsening of the political landscape in their home country.

Those who feel relieved by thinking that Trump will not engage in an actual war and is merely interested in making threats should realize that the war has already begun. U.S. sanctions are producing a level of suffering comparable to that of wartime. Sanctions in fact are a war waged by the United States against the Iranian working- and middle-classes. These groups struggle to make ends meet as unemployment dramatically increases even as the inflation rate skyrockets. The same people that the Trump administration is pretending to want to set free are the ones that are hit hardest by current U.S. policies in the Middle East.

I am a woman who grew up in Tehran. I arrived in the United States seven years ago to pursue my studies in sociology. This decision was strongly shaped by my involvement in the peaceful pro-democracy movements of 2009. I have always opposed, and continue to criticize, the undemocratic elements of the Islamic Republic state. While my profession and studies are very meaningful to me, the political dramas silently affecting my homeland and family on a routine basis make me feel alienated and utterly excluded from this society. I am weighed down by perpetual worry that my diabetic father is in danger of losing access to needed medication due to sanctions. My millennial friends are so consumed with anxiety over the possibility of war that their collective mental well-being is undermined, and they are unable to make any meaningful plans for their future.

Living a double life between the United States and Iran, I struggle daily with moments of despair and alienation: I am simply unable to communicate my concerns with the most caring colleagues at work and at school. U.S. civil society is so devoid of a voice representing my position that I struggle to find a way to verbalize my sense of panic, frustration, and despair. These fused feelings emerge because the wall between me and the rest of the society does not allow them to see the impact of the U.S. government’s decisions in lives lived far from them, but so close to my heart.

U.S. civil society needs to include more global perspectives on the country’s foreign policy. U.S. citizens must become more aware that their votes have grave consequences beyond their country’s borders. Although U.S. citizens are equipped with various safety nets and enjoy economic and military global superiority, their elected administration’s foreign policy is a matter of life and death for the citizens of the other countries, especially in the Middle East. For the United States to truly honor its claims to protect human rights and moral integrity, these issues need to be included in the upcoming election debates.

Elham Pourtaher is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at SUNY Albany. She works at the New York State Department of Health on programs that respond to the opioid crisis.  

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  1. For people of Iran war started and continues since that fascist Islamic theocracy with the help of communists and MEK terrorists group stole their revolution 40 years ago. Point to one year that fascist regime hasn’t been at war with people at home or provoking others and financing terrorist camps around the world to expand it stone age ideologies.

  2. This lady needs to understand that there is nothing remotely democratic about the Iranian Theocracy. She states “the most undemocratic elements of the Iranian state..” as if there are less democratic ones! She also refers to the “pro-democracy movement in 2009”. The Iranian elections are pre-selected by blood thirsty clerics, and so were the 2009 candidates, Moussavi was prime minister when 1000s of young pro-democracy and leftists were executed without trials. Elham is for an Islamic Republic, which is at its core a theocratic and an anti-democratic regime. Furthermore, she needs to understand that her country has been intervening in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, not to mention Bahrain,…to bring its own corrupt, mafiosi system of shia theocracy for decades. US is primarily a military power, with long arms in atrocities and mass killings to further its footprint globally and to enforce the dollars’ economic hegemony. The corrupt Theocracy has put our people in grave and mortal danger by its export of revolution around the region, and now it is the and of the road. They will sacrifice the well being of Iranians to stand their ground for what? A bankrupt, much hated Islamic regime?! Ilham is doing Zarif’s work in pretending the I.R. has any potential to be a normal regime. If she cares so bad for her Iranian compatriots, then she should first explain how through decades the regime has pillaged and plundered our resources natural and human, just to keep the anti-human shia culture imposed on Iranians. But no, she complains about US civil society?! Oh well, the US is now bound on removing this horrible regime for its own interests, and we might have the territorial integrity of Iran in the balance. Ask if US cares,…Iraqi Kurdistan is still an independent territory since 1991!

  3. Elham is almost a PhD and can’t see that the religious “leaders” are the problem ? The “pro-democracy” people have failed to convince the remainder of the people in Iran to vote the religious people out. When the vast majority see that there is a better way they will get rid of the present “leaders”. The same applies to Palestine; they voted for what they got, so now they have to suffer the consequences !!! Those that hate usually have a short life.

  4. A majority of the American public does not care about what happens outside of their country’s borders…unless they are manipulated into “caring” by a media frenzy about atrocities committed by official “enemies” of America. Take the outrage over the battle to oust anti-Assad rebels form eastern Aleppo in 2016, with news anchors weeping on air and hysterical bellowing on social media over the bloody carnage caused by the fighting. The media covered the battle for Aleppo in detail and took a very biased pro-rebel position. The culprits, or “bad guys”, were Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the Assad “regime.”

    Now compare this to the media coverage of the extremely bloody battle to drive ISIS/Daesh from Mosul and the fight to dislodge them from Raqqa that left both these cities in rubble and many tens of thousands of their residents dead. Because these operations were lead by “coalition forces” (i.e. the United States) there was no media campaign that focused for weeks on end on the horrific reality of urban warfare. No outpouring of manufactured grief on social media or tearful news readers.

    Neither the Trump administration not its Democratic opponents care about the Iranian people and there is no media coverage that portrays them in a sympathetic light. Hence, most Americans are at best indifferent to their plight…and at worst support further sanctions and war against their country. This is hardly surprising as this pattern repeats itself with depressing regularity. Out of sight, out of mind.

    How can anyone who lives in the United States, and is immeresed in its culture, not be aware of this?

  5. The good and naive American people are kept uninformed and blinded to their government actions domestically and internationally by the subservient media. The people are slaved to consumerism and as long as the government can protect their hunger for a low wage job, food and beers, transportation and cheap gasoline they really don’t give a shit how the government and corporations provide those things.

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