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January 12, 2018
 

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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 12, 2018 STR/AFP/Getty Images Iranian students protesting at the University of Tehran, Dec. 30, 2017. By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)--Ira- nians are taking to the streets in spontaneous demonstra- tions across the country to protest government corrup- tion and a failing economy. The depth and breadth of popular Iranian anger have taken the West by surprise, nowhere more so than in Washington, where the focus on Iran since Donald Trump assumed the presidency has been on whether he would preserve the 2015 nuclear deal. Until Dec. 28, this was the calculus: Would Trump kill the agreement or be content with dismissing it as "the worst deal" in history? The deal forged between Iran and six major powers trades sanc- tions relief for a rollback of Iran's nuclear program. Now the question is whether Trump sees the demonstrations and their repression by Tehran as an ad- ditional spur--or even the last straw--that would convince him to pull the United States out of the pact. On Dec. 28, anti-inflation protests broke out in Mash- had, Iran's second-largest city and generally a stronghold of support for the theocracy. They quickly spread, fueled by anger not just at economic mismanagement but at Iran's military adventurism over- seas. At least 20 protesters have been killed. The feared Revolutionary Guard Corps has j oined in the crackdown and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has sought to blame outsiders for spurring the protests. Trump has yet to say how the protests affect the nuclear deal, but he has condemned the crackdown and warned Iranian leaders that he is watching their actions. "Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government," Trump said Wednesday on Twitter, his seventh tweet about the uprising since it began a week earlier. "You m 2 A L E 24 L A U 41 S C R 59 E A M S m 7 O A F S 3O B 34 I S O N mm 12 13 P A I T L E 7 11 27 N T . EE R L 47 48 K A M S S~A 6 L Cl KI El NI Sl OI6SU 66p E 594382671 63851 7924 721964583 283145769 457698312 169273845 915826437 842739156 376451298 will see great support from the United States at the ap- propriate time!" In aWashington Post op-ed published Thursday berating the Obama administration for its handling of Iran, Vice President Mike Pence said that additional actions definitely were an option, given the latest protests. "We have already issued new sanctions on Iran's Is- lamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the president is weighing additional actions to punish the regime for its belligerent behavior and as- sault on its own citizens," Pence wrote. Would those include re- suming the narrow nuclear- related sanctions relaxed as a result of the Iran deal? Pence did not spell that out, but he blamed the Iran deal for enriching the regime and enabling it to crack down on its citizens. In mid-January, Trump has two deadlines looming: Whether to certify Iran's compliance with the deal: Under a 2015 law passed by a Congress skeptical of President Barack Obama's agreement, the deal requires certification every 90 days. Trump refused to certify the last time the 90 days were up, in October, effectively punting the issue to Congress. Doing so again would have the same effect; it would be up to Con- gress to reimpose sanctions. Congress demurred last time because no one at the time wanted responsibility (JTA)--Four current and former flight attendants have filed a federal lawsuit against Delta Air Lines alleging that the company's management has "an anti-Jewish, Hebrew and ethnic Israeli attitude." The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York's Westchester County. The plaintiffs worked on the airline's New York-Tel Aviv route. Two are Jewish and two say there were disciplined or subjected to a hostile work en- vironment for their association with Jewish flight attendants and passengers, attorney Brian Mildenberg said in a statement issued Tuesday. In the suit, the plaintiffs allege that Delta management "through words and deeds, operate under an express for killing a deal that much of the world believes is work- ing. Widespread revulsion at oppression of the protesters, if it intensifies, could change that calculus. Whether to waive the nuclear sanctions: The deal requires the U.S. president to do. The sanctions are renew- able every 120 days under laws passed early in the Obama administration. Trump may also reimpose the nuclear sanc- tions by executive order at any time. Not waiving the nuclear sanctions or reimposing them would effectively pull the United States out of the deal. We asked experts who favor and oppose the Iran deal two questions: How would the protests influence Trump's decision-making on whether to stick with the deal? And is there a connection between the deal and the protests? Here's what they had to say. The protests may be the straw that breaks the deal's back. Mark Dubowitz, the director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who has counseled the White House on its Iran strategy, said the protests could spur Congress and America's European allies to finally take up Trump's chal- lenge in October. That's when the president refused to certify Iranian compliance with the deal and essentially said his goal is to "fix it or nix it"--amend the terms or walk away. Dubowitz said the protests "may increase the incentive for all sides to come together and find a legislative solution." "The protests reinforce the administration's view that the Iranian regime is an odious, expansionist and destructive force in the Middle East," he said. "Its foreign adventurism and domestic repression must be confronted using all instru- ments of American power." Richard Goldberg, a former top Senate aide who helped shape the nuclear sanctions, said it made little sense for Trump to waive them now. "With people pouring into the streets crying out for a new regime, it's hard to imagine how the president waives sanctions and keeps money flowing into the regime's coffers," he said. "Whether you were a supporter or op- ponent of the nuclear deal, .mI assumption that ethnic Jews and Israelis, as employees and passengers, cannot be trusted, are aggressive and inappropri- ate, and engage in what are deemed to be 'strange' be- haviors by conducting prayers on the flight and requiring special dietary accommoda- tions (kosher meals)." The lawsuit also claims that Delta has punished Jewish and other flight attendants, including with suspension or termination, for legally shar- ing their companion travel passes with Jewish individuals who fly to Tel Aviv "solely on the basis of their Jewish and Israel ethnicity and ancestry," It also says Delta has punished them for being Jewish or for their association with Jews and Israelis, "and has either nothing should hold us back from siding with the people and against their oppressors" The protests are exactly the wrong time to end the nuclear deal. Dan Shapiro, who was Obama's ambassador to Israel from 2011 until ayearago, said scrapping the deal would play into Khamenei's claims that outside actors are trying to influence the protests. "It would undercut one of the areas where protesters are rightfully blaming the regime for squandering relief on sup- porting terrorists and foreign adventurers," said Shapiro, who is now a fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies. Daryl Kimball, who directs t he Arms Control Association, said killing the deal would be a gift to Khamenei. "If Trump decides to re- impose the nuclear-related sanctions waived under the terms of the Joint Compre- hensive Plan of Action, he will be creating a nonprolifera- tion and security crisis and providing top Iranian offi- cials-particularly Ayatollah Ali Khamenei--a propaganda bonanza," Kimball said. "If Trump unilaterally reimposes all the nuclear sanctions, it will allow the Iranian regime to blame the U.S. for the regime's failures to address the grievances of those who are marching in the streets." Additionally, Shapiro said, itwas not in theWest's interest to free an Iranian regime al- ready rattled by the protests to accelerate a nuclear breakout. The Iran deal, for at least 10 years, keeps Iran a year away from a nuclear bomb. If sanctions were lifted, he said, "We could be right back to Iran two to three months away from a nuclear breakout." Alireza Nader, a senior Iran expert at the Rand Corp a think tan k that frequently con- suits with the Pentagon, said it made no sense to rattle the Iran deal when there were many other non-nuclear sanctions options that could squeeze the regime. Taking Iran off the list of Muslim-majority nations whose citizens are banned entry to the United States would be a signal to Iranians that the United States is heeding their plight. restricted their employment rights, denied them promo- tions, or subjected them to harassment and abuse, for pretextual reasons." Among the incidents cited, according to reports and first reported by TMZ, is a flight attendant who says she was fired in March because she is Jewish. While the company says it fired her because she missed a flight, the woman says she was on maternity leave at the time. In a second incident, a non-Jewish flight attendant who shared her travel com- panion pass with a longtime Jewish friend was suspended without pay and had her travel privileges revoked. She alleges that it is because the friend was Jewish. Another measure would be to remove sanctions on U.S. information firms doing business in Iran, Nader said. That would "make sure that Iranians have access to tech- nology that gets information in and out of Iran," he said. On Thursday, a top Trump administration official said freeing technology use for Iranians was on the agenda. "It is absolutely a core U.S. interest that this informa- tion flow into Iran and the operation of key social media platforms like Telegram, like Instagram, is preserved," Andrew Peek, the deputy as- sistant secretary of state who handles Iran, told the BBC's Persian service. He also said that sanctions were in the works targeting individuals who violated human rights. The nuclear deal helped get us here, in a bad way. Deal opponents say the nuclear deal freed up cash that the Iranian regime is now using to fund its military adventurism--and to repress protests. In his op-ed, Pence said the pact "flooded the regime's coffers with tens of billions of dollars in cash--money that it could use to repress its own people and support terrorism across the wider world." The nuclear deal helped get us here, in a good way. Obama-era officials sent mixed messages on the deal when it was being negotiated. Some, like Secretary of State John Kerry, hoped it would moderate the regime. Oth- ers, like Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, argued that tak- ing a nuclear threat off the table--however temporar- ily-made it easier to squeeze a recalcitrant Iran for its other bad acts. Nader of the Rand Corp. said the latter argument ap- pears to have been validated, to a degree: Non-nuclear sanctions that Obama kept in place and Trump has re- inforced have afflicted Iran's economy, helping to spur the uprising. But the real villain is the regime's incompetence and corruption. "The economy in Iran is abysmal, and U.S. sanctions have contributed to that," he said. "But the No. 1 blame should go to the Iranian re- gime for being corrupt." Delta responded in a state- ment that it "strongly con- demns the allegations of discrimination described in this suit and will defend itself vigorously against them. As a global airline that brings people across the world to- gether every day, Delta values diversity in all aspects of its business and has zero toler- ance for discrimination." Delta's New York-Tel Aviv line was discontinued after the 9/11 attack in 2001 and reinstated in 2008. The airline also has a direct flight to Tel Aviv from Atlanta. Following its merger with Northwest Airlines in 2008, Delta dropped a Minnesota rabbi from its frequent flier program for earning too many miles.