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Iranians want more than a nuclear deal

While most Iranians were excited about the nuclear deal, many hoped that it would be the first step of bringing normalcy and stability back to their lives.
EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.

A woman walks on a sidewalk in central of Tehran March 3, 2012. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi  (IRAN - Tags: SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR2YRLH

TEHRAN, Iran — Many Iranians have had a positive reaction to the nuclear agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, the P5+1. The morning after the six-month interim deal was announced, many Iranians seemed happy and greeted neighbors with smiles. After eight years of a hard-line president in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and increasing tensions with the West over Iran’s nuclear program that constantly brought threats of military action against Iran, Iranians seem both jubilant and relieved. However, when talking to them, many of their day-to-day problems still persist and there are many reasons for them to feel that their happiness may be short-lived. That’s why many Iranians hope that the nuclear deal will be the first part of many more deals and better relations with the West.

“They did the right thing. They should have done this a long time ago instead of waiting and allowing people to suffer poverty and hunger, “ said a construction worker on Karim Khan Street, who spoke to me only after some persistence. “But still, I thank God that they finally did it. It is never too late. Prices will drop, I guarantee it; it will take four or five months but it will happen.” 

The concern about the economy was many people’s concern in regard to the nuclear deal. In addition to the billions that will be unblocked, there will be temporary sanctions relief. This is a big deal given the severity of Iran’s economic issues as discussed by the administration officials who say that Iran currently has an “empty treasury.” Upon news of the agreement, Iran’s struggling currency gained 3%. 

On Haft-e-Tir Street, a jeweler told Al-Monitor that the recent agreement is yet to influence the gold market but that he was hopeful the nuclear agreement would end Iran’s isolation. “The important thing is for Iran to restart its diplomatic relations with the United States. Of course, it is not for Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to decide; more important people need to agree. But they should continue the process.”

The final decision on the nuclear program and foreign policy matters is the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, many Iranians credited President Hassan Rouhani and his administration for persuading the supreme leader to reach a nuclear agreement. 

Ehsan, a 25-year-old graduate student studying electrical engineering in the south Tehran branch of the Islamic Azad University, told Al-Monitor that he did not participate in the recent presidential elections because of the continued house arrest of 2009 presidential candidates Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. However, he concedes that Rouhani may the type of politician Iran needs today. “Rouhani is a real politician,” he said. “He managed to convince Khamenei to compromise with the United States.” He contrasted Rouhani with former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose rhetoric seemed to unite the world against Iran. “Look at what Rouhani has done, he has killed two birds with one stone: This agreement has brought Iran closer to the United States while at the same time, Israel and the United States are drifting apart.”

Despite the optimism, some are still cautious and worry that the interim deal will not result in a more long-term deal and that Iranian hard-liners will spoil the opportunity to have better relations with the United States or that the conflicting statements from Secretary of State John Kerry and Zarif about Iran’s right to enrich will lead to problems down the road. “As long as Khameni is surrounded by extremists, there will be trouble,” said one student activist to Al-Monitor. “They might tell Khamenei that Iran has been too flexible or that we have been conned and he might believe them.” He joked, “I won’t rest until Obama comes to Tehran and has his photo taken with Khamenei.”

On Monday morning, the reformist newspapers such as Shargh, Etemad, Arman and Qanoon also expressed their enthusiasm and happiness regarding the nuclear deal. 

A former professor of Allameh University mocked their enthusiasm and said: “Well, I guess everything is fine and dandy then! I was reading the newspapers today and I don’t understand where all this enthusiasm is coming from. It doesn’t make sense. I wonder if one day the US Embassy is reopened in Tehran, what will these newspapers do then? Yesterday, they were almost as happy as newspapers were back in 1979 when the Shah went into exile!”

Despite the cautious optimism and hopes for better relations with the world, many are hopeful that this deal will be the beginning of Iranians living more normal and less politically obsessed lives.  

Maral, an elementary school teacher, told Al-Monitor, “I don’t like it that the country is so politicized. Even my kids were talking about the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries today. They all know who Ms. Ashton is. Why should a 9-year-old be concerned with these issues? I hope the whole thing is soon over so we can get back to our normal lives.”

More from A correspondent in Tehran

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