Cyprus Mail

Iranians welcome deal with satisfaction and caution

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Parisa Hafezi

The lifting of sanctions set off scenes of jubilation in Iran’s parliament: Supporters planted kisses on the forehead of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and jostled to take selfies.

For pragmatic politicians like him, the nuclear deal that reconnects Iran to the world marks a victory over rival factions at home as much as a diplomatic coup overseas.

There was also optimism among ordinary Iranians.

“I cannot wait … We deserve to be part of the international community again,” said elementary school teacher Ziba Ghafouri, 35, in the northern city of Babolsar.

But many others reacted cautiously, in contrast to widespread elation six months earlier, when Iranians poured into the streets to celebrate the signing of the nuclear deal that made possible the lifting of most economic curbs.

Many have lived under sanctions or wartime austerity for so long that they have no concrete expectations about what the future might hold.

And they have been told by their government not to expect quick miracles, an idea people seem to have taken to heart.

“I don’t think it will have much impact on our lives,” said retired government employee Mohammad-Reza Hosseini, 63, in the central city of Shiraz.

“This country has so many problems that it will take years to solve them.”


With sanctions finally lifted, Iranians must settle down to the sober task of rebuilding an economy that has been battered even since the deal was reached in July last year

Iran will immediately have more money to pay for imports, as the government gains access to tens of billions of dollars of assets frozen abroad. However, foreign businesses may hesitate to invest heavily in a market that still carries a lot of risks.

The opponents of the deal, a significant faction in Iran, also kept their counsel. Hardline newspapers who dislike the deal due to deep suspicions about U.S. intentions did not take a strong stand, perhaps resolving to focus on a bitter internal power struggle that is likely to intensify after the deal.

Iranians interviewed by telephone by Reuters described themselves as exhausted by the years of hardship and hopeful rather that better times might be ahead.

“At least 10 small factories were closed in our area. Just a few big factories could survive,” said tile shop owner Reza Sadrsefat in the central city of Isfahan.

“Even as owner of a small shop, I had difficulties to buy material in the past few years. And even when I did, the prices were so high that I could not sell them. I am very happy that our leaders could resolve this issue.”

In Dubai, Iranian sailors were packing small trading boats with foreign goods, preparing to cross the Gulf to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. Even this creaking bridge to the world has suffered under sanctions, they said.

“We had a problem with sanctions. We traded less, our imports and exports were down. With the lifting of sanctions our trade will gradually increase,” sailor Hossein Jaafari said.


For many young Iranians it’s not all about the money.

Ali Araghchi, the nephew of Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, believes the lifting of sanctions will start a new era of diplomatic harmony and improve Iran’s global image.

Araghchi is the founder of “Must See Iran”, a social media campaign that invites Iranians to post pictures of Persian culture and nature to counteract negative stereotypes about their country. Tens of thousands have signed up.

“It an exciting day for all of us,” he told Reuters. “Iranians are much more hopeful and optimistic compared to the time we were under cruel sanctions. Peace of mind will be a significant part of our future.”

Araghchi believes the lifting of sanctions will open Iran’s gates to thousands of “nature lovers and art enthusiasts” who will be able to see another side to Iran, an ecologically diverse country with a glorious history.

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