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The Daily Illini

U of I students, faculty keep watchful eye on Iran


University student groups and faculty are increasing their engagement concerning the developing Iranian nuclear crisis as tensions mount between Iran and the West.

American and Iranian ships have guns trained on each other day and night in the Strait of Hormuz, and Iran remains non-compliant with International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, said Bharath Gopalaswamy, associate director of the University’s Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security.

“What we are seeing is rhetoric being stepped up on both sides, and one fear is that this may lead to an accidental attack in the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. should not sleepwalk into a war with Iran,” Gopalaswamy said. “This is definitely an issue students should pay attention to. Just because is it far away or isolated from us doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us.”

Also alarmed by the inflamed rhetoric is College of Law student David Amerson. As a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, Amerson said he is well aware of the costs an impulsive war places on the nation as whole, but especially on the nation’s men and women in the armed forces.

“An Israeli war with Iran would almost certainly entail American involvement, even if America isn’t directly involved in combat with Iran. Such a conflict would lead to destabilization in the region, which would only mean that our troops would be in the region longer and in greater numbers,” Amerson said.

But the consequences of an Iranian conflict would have far-reaching implications for civilians as well, Amerson said.

“Every dollar spent on bullets is one less dollar that is used to educate our children, care for our elderly and feed our hungry,” he added.

For students in the American-Israeli Student Coalition and Israeli Illini, isolationism is not an option because of Israel’s central involvement.

“Iran holds a threat to Israel even without nuclear weapons. It is the main supplier of weapons and assistance to terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. With nuclear weapons, Iran will be an even bigger threat to Israel with an ability to supply those organizations with dirty bombs that can contaminate whole cities in Israel,” said Shoshanna Shaoul, member of Israeli Illini and junior in LAS.

To spread awareness of the crisis, Israeli Illini has taken the issue head-on.

“We try to have an open dialogue every week about current events in Israel,” Shaoul said. “We have informal and formal lectures and discussions where members of the club have an opportunity to learn the basics of the issue. We show documentaries and try to engage other groups on campus to display the issue and the threat that it holds to everyone.”

Sophomore in LAS Max Davis and fellow members of the American-Israeli student coalition also confront the issue directly through open discussion and activism on campus.

“We promote the U.S.-Israel relationship on campus by engaging students and elected leaders and spreading information,” Davis said.

Gopalaswamy stated that if there is a war between Israel and Iran, the U.S. will be involved as well.

“A channel of communication that can prevent accidental conflict is necessary to avoid this,” Gopalaswamy said.

The Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security will be holding a panel on March 29 discussing the unrest in the Middle East.

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