We Iranian-Americans Know the Price of War. We Can't Let It Happen Again | Opinion

Americans of Iranian descent know the price of war only too well.

Many of us lived through the gruesome Iran-Iraq war, when Saddam Hussein's U.S.-made missiles rained down on cities in Iran. Hundreds of thousands lost their lives in a drawn-out conflict that eventually ended in a stalemate.

And as if the war was not enough, the revolutionary Iranian state exploited the external threat to crack down internally, targeting political opponents and executing thousands to solidify its hold on power.

Fellow Americans who did not live through the Iran-Iraq war have now experienced their own drawn out and devastating war in Iraq. Setting out to quash the illusory and misleading threats of Iraqi WMDs, Americans have lost thousands of young servicemen and squandered trillions of dollars in a war that has had no winners, but many victims.

And while the destruction of the two wars dominated events in the Middle East, another conflict loomed on the horizon. A U.S. military confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program.

But in 2015, diplomacy moved us from the brink of another war, thanks to President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. Iranians—long targeted both by punishing sanctions and state repression—took to the streets in celebration. They had overcome the odds and elected President Rouhani, a moderate who promised to resolve the nuclear dispute and lift sanctions. Their hopes of re-engaging the world were delivered. And for a time, sanctions and the threat of war receded.

Then came President Donald Trump. The Trump administration banned the entry of all Iranians to the US, snapped back economic sanctions that collectively punishes 80 million Iranians and withdrew from the nuclear deal even though Iran's government was in compliance. And Trump recruited as his National Security advisor John Bolton —a man so eager to bomb Iran he called for it in the midst of Obama's nuclear negotiations.

Now, the U.S. is ratcheting up the pressure, intending to collapse the agreement completely and set the stage for war. Mr. Bolton has threatened Iran with "unrelenting force" and boasted about American aircraft carriers and heavy bombers dominating the Persian Gulf.

And, one year since Trump's withdrawal from the accord, Iran is poised to halt compliance with aspects of the landmark nuclear agreement. Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guard, now emboldened by the U.S. breach of the nuclear deal, is operationalizing its military posture against American presence across the Persian Gulf and the region.

Like the previous wars, a military conflict between the U.S. and Iran will have no winners. Yet another generation of Iranians would grow up in fear of missiles and bombs, while seeing their dreams for a more open and prosperous country wither. And many more American soldiers will lose their lives in an avoidable conflict that will only trigger further resentment and instability in the Middle East.

It is not yet too late to turn away from this destructive path. Trump himself, unlike John Bolton, has stated repeatedly that he does not want another costly war in the Middle East. Congress has not authorized a war with Iran, and if it takes steps to assert its role as the only branch of government with the power to declare war, it can ensure we don't end up in a disastrous military conflict based on the whims of the President or his un-elected National Security Advisor.

Furthermore, the 2020 Presidential contenders can challenge Trump and signal that they will shore up Iran's compliance by returning the U.S. to the nuclear deal. They can outline the benefits of diplomacy and economic engagement gained from the 2015 international accord. President Obama's deal with Iran was a potential first step for stronger economic relations across the region.

Our allies in the region, including the peoples of Israel and Saudi Arabia, can benefit tremendously from Iran's civil society of 80 million joining the global economy. Over the past four decades, threats of war and economic sanctions on Iran have only emboldened its hard-liners who have prospered from the black markets and the constant military stand-off with America and its allies.

As it stands, those who have not yet paid the price for their warmongering in Iraq are driving U.S. policy against Iran. They are eager to see history repeat itself. Forus Americans who know the costs, both to the United States and Iran, we cannot silently stand by and allow it to happen again.

Farshad Farahat was a costar in the Academy Award-winning film "Argo" and the Emmy-winning show "House of Cards." He studied journalism at UMASS and a PhD in conflict resolution. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, The Hill, The Huffington Post and The National Interest.

Jamal Abdi is President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and the Executive Director of NIAC Action. He formerly served as Policy Advisor on foreign affairs, immigration, and defense issues in the U.S. Congress. Abdi has written for The New York Times, CNN, Foreign Policy, and blogs at The Huffington Post. He is a frequent guest contributor in print, radio, and television, including appearances on Al Jazeera, NPR, and BBC News.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​