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Iranian-American Tech Execs, Investors Support Nuclear Deal

"Solving problems through communication is better for the world than conflict," they write in an open letter.

Asa Mathat for Re/code / Courtesy of Ali Partovi

A group of prominent Americans of Iranian descent — including several notable names from the tech world — are supporting a controversial diplomatic agreement aimed at checking the nation of Iran’s abilities to build its own nuclear weapon.

In an open letter that will be published as a full-page ad in the New York Times and on the website, the letter’s 24 signatories argue that “… solving problems through communication is better for the world than conflict …” and “… when we achieve America’s goals through diplomacy instead of war, we all win.”

The group includes Hadi and Ali Partovi, Facebook and Dropbox investors who are also the brothers behind the nonprofit education (Hadi spoke at the first Code Conference in 2014.)

In an interview, Ali Partovi said Iranian-Americans have traditionally kept a low profile about their country of origin. This letter represents the first time they have come together in support of a cause.

“In a lot of the American dialogue about the Iran nuclear deal, there’s been a tendency to treat Iran as this feared, distant ‘other’ group,” Partovi said, “partly because a lot of people don’t realize how interconnected they are to Iranians.”

Partovi and other prominent Silicon Valley players hope that in light of their stepping forward, Americans will view the agreement differently. “It’s important for the American people to recognize that we’re not talking about a completely disconnected country, we’re talking about a country whose diaspora is really interwoven with American life,” Partovi said.

Notable names on the list include Omid Kordestani, Google’s chief business officer, who’s often described as the company’s “soul”; Twitter’s former COO Ali Rowghani; and prominent Silicon Valley investor Shervin Pishevar. Salar Kamangar, the former CEO of YouTube, also signed, as did Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Dropbox co-founder CTO Arash Ferdowsi and Shayan Zadeh, CEO of Gear Zero, a stealth startup, and former CEO of the dating site Zoosk.

“While the government of Iran and the governments of the West have had profound differences, the people of Iran have a long history of tolerance, hospitality, creativity and innovation that predates modern governments and religions, and these are values that Americans share,” the letter reads.

Other signees of the letter include: Anousheh Ansari, an engineer and businesswoman who in 2006 flew aboard the International Space Station; Hamid Biglari, a former vice-chairman of Citigroup; Firoozeh Dumas, an Iranian-American author who has written a series of humorous books about her heritage; and Mehran Kardar, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The comedian Maz Jobrani, the actress and comic Nasim Pedrad formerly of “Saturday Night Live,” the actresses Shohreh Aghdashloo, who played a role in the TV series “24,” and Nazanin Boniadi, who appeared in the series “Homeland,” also signed.

The letter is the latest of several in support of the deal. Similar letters supporting the deal have come from groups of former U.S. diplomats and American nuclear scientists.

Groups rallying against the agreement include all Republican presidential candidates and many members of Congress, where the deal faced stiff opposition on both sides of the political divide. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic senator from New York, who is expected to lead Senate Democrats after the next election, came out against the deal in a lengthy post on Medium.

The deal — between Iran, the U.S. and five other countries — was reached last month after two years of intense negotiations. It proposes to limit how much uranium Iran can enrich and to what levels it can do so and imposes a system of inspections in return for the removal of crippling economic sanctions. Its supporters say it will prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb for at least a decade. Critics have said the deal doesn’t leave the U.S. and Israel better off than before, and that if Iran cheats or fails to meet its obligations, provisions for a “snapback” of economic sanctions are difficult to enact.

Here’s the letter’s full text:

Dear fellow Americans:

We are Americans of Iranian descent. Like all Americans, we’re proud of our great country, and we vigorously defend the U.S. ideals of freedom and opportunity. We’ve worked together to make this the best country in the world.

Like all Americans, we represent every color on the political and religious spectrum, and we often disagree. But we agree on one thing: that solving problems through communication is better for the world than conflict. In the past few decades, wars have cost Americans thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, and conflict has persisted. When we achieve America’s goals through diplomacy instead of war, we all win.

Our message is about people, not politics.

Diplomacy with Iran has the potential to do much more than prevent a war. It provides an opportunity for engagement between cultures, people, and ideas. It creates a chance for Americans and Iranians to create a brighter future that benefits all of our children.

While the government of Iran and the governments of the West have had profound differences, the people of Iran have a long history of tolerance, hospitality, creativity, and innovation that predates modern governments and religions — and these are values that Americans share. The people of Iran want peace, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness just as much as Americans do.

We urge you, our fellow Americans, to show your desire for peace and prosperity by supporting the recent agreement among the United States, Iran, and other major world powers. Join us in embracing this unique opportunity for Americans and Iranians to connect. Let’s make history.

Correction: We corrected the spelling of Anousheh Ansari’s first name. Sorry about that.

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