QOM, Iran — From the look on his face, the security officer at Imam Khomeini International Airport seemed surprised that most arrivals weren’t Iranian. A long queue stretched to the one passport control counter reserved for foreigners, while the other five counters dedicated to Iranians were largely deserted. Eventually, one of the five counters was opened to foreigners. Iran appears to be opening up more quickly than the government anticipated.
From the airport, Al-Monitor’s columnist got a cab straight to the holy city of Qom, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of Tehran. Halfway there, a vast military area suddenly appeared. It was surrounded by barbed wire that extended over several kilometers and was punctuated by security checkpoints. The driver explained that it was the Fordo nuclear facility. “Iran has managed to keep this facility in operation. This is a symbol of Tehran’s victory in the tough international tug of war with the West, ongoing for years now,” he told Al-Monitor.