A "No War on Iran" rally is planned for Tuesday in San Francisco at the BART Plaza at Mission and 24th Streets, with protestors calling for the Trump administration to end economic sanctions against Iran and back away from military conflict.
Escalating tension between Iran and the U.S. reached a new level Monday when President Trump signed off on new economic sanctions aimed at preventing Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and eight top military officials from using international banks.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman responded quickly and dramatically saying late Monday night that the sanctions mean "permanent closure" of diplomacy.
Trump said the sanctions were in response to alleged Iranian attacks on oil tankers. Iran also shot down a U.S. drone which it claimed had entered Iranian air space, an assertion the U.S. denied, saying it was over international waters. President Trump canceled a U.S. military strike last week and reportedly ordered a long-planned cyber attack on Iran instead.
"We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities and aspirations," said President Trump.
The sanctions are largely symbolic, according to Abbas Milani, director of the Stanford University Iranian Studies Program. Milani says most of the assets held by Iranian leaders are likely concentrated within Iran and not in foreign banks. Milani says instead, Trump administration's economic sanctions on Iran after pulling the U.S. out of the Iran Nuclear Deal are having a harsh impact on ordinary Iranian people.
Milani also says the increasingly confrontational climate is making it more difficult for moderate Iranians within Iran to speak out against the regime and the Trump administration's vacillating policy statements create confusion.
"In Europe, Russia, China and in Iran, they see a shifting policy positions," said Milani, "A month ago, Mr. Pompeo announced that there are twelve conditions before the U.S. would return to negotiations. Then Trump suddenly said there are no conditions except no nuclear weapons."
For Iranian-Americans living in the Bay Area, the threat of military conflict comes with personal stress, thinking about family and friends in Iran.
"It was really scary. It was really emotional for all of us especially in my home. We had a lot of family and friends traveling to Iran this past week," said Camilia Razavi, who says she was born in the U.S. but both her parents grew up in Tehran.
"My dad came here on a student visa before the Iranian revolution, and then my mom escaped during the Iran-Iraq war," said Razavi.
Razavi says her uncle and aunt in Iran run a pistachio farm and are having difficulty selling their products outside of Iran under the sanctions. Razavi also says her uncle has Parkinson's disease and is having difficulty getting proper medical care.
"Their medicine is either expired so they can't really use it or they just don't have the medications they need on a given day because there are so many other sick people," said Razavi.
Milani says the Trump administration's decision to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal has isolated the U.S. He says the coalition of other signatories including China, Russia and Europe are taking different approaches to Iran's call for economic support and threats of increasing uranium enrichment levels and stockpiles.
Milani says there are three major forces within Iran: the citizens, the political reformists or moderates, and the hardliners led by Ayatollah Khamenei. He says although the Iran Nuclear Deal was flawed, it did succeed in getting those factions and the international community to agree on a set of rules.
"Contrary to what Mr. Trump says and calls...the worst deal in history. This is one of the most serious rollbacks in history. Iran gives up much of its enriched uranium, Iran shuts down it's reactor," said Milani, "Iran essentially promises to shut down more than two-thirds of its program to meet this effort."
Milani says with the Iran Nuclear Deal falling apart, there is another threat to the region's stability.
"The long-term view is that Russia and China are becoming far more influential in that very important region. That is going to have long-term consequences," said Milani.