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What Iranians think of the nuclear deal

To find some answers to these questions, I conducted interviews with the people that this truly affects

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Published: Updated:

Iran’s nuclear deal and the improving Iran-West political and economic relationships have spurred various reactions among Iranian people inside and outside of Iran.

The mainstream media has predominantly focused on the thousands of Iranians who poured into the street to celebrate the agreement reached between the six world powers (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; plus Germany) and the Islamic Republic.

Despite the appearance of celebration there are many important questions to address. Some of these questions are: What are the major reasons behind people’s acceptance or discontent with the nuclear deal and Iran-West rapprochement? Which camps do support the deal, which don’t, and which don’t even acknowledge it? Do all Iranians have the same feelings and reactions toward the nuclear deal?

To find some answers to these questions, I conducted interviews with the people that this truly affects. The information I discovered was intriguing. I found that some people were celebrating and dancing not because of the details and intricacies of the nuclear deal, but primarily because they have been forbidden for so long from having fun in the country that they always search for opportunities to be happy and defy the government’s boundaries.

When a surge of millions of people pour into the street, blast music, and dance, the government does not have the capacity to imprison or detain all of them. As Soraya, a 23-year-old from Tabriz told me, “Some might not know or care what is in the nuclear deal, they just want to use the moment and be happy.”

Those in favor

There are mainly three camps among Iranian people regarding the nuclear deal and Iran-West rapprochement. The first camp are those who view the nuclear agreement as a positive sign. Ironically the majority of the supporters of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as the younger population of Iran are in favor of the deal, albeit for various reasons.

Some ordinary people view the deal and Iran-West improving ties as a sign that their living standards will improve. They hope for the possibility of reform and the advance of human rights such as, freedom of speech, press, assembly, social justice, rule of law, and democracy.

Some view the deal as a platform that can help them achieve their dreams. For Sadegh, 28, Iran’s nuclear deal will increase his chances of getting a visa to come to the United States. He hopes to study and stay there. “Because we have an agreement and because Iranian and American officials talk regularly, U.S. embassies will give Iranians visas,” he said. A couple I spoke to, Mr. and Mrs. Ghaemi think that they can get approval to immigrate to Canada and then move to the US.

For other Iranians, like Fereshteh, some everyday purchases will become much easier. “I will hopefully be able to buy foreign books online, use credit cards, buy cosmetic products cheaper, and live like everybody else in the world,” she explained.

There are those who support the Supreme Leader and the Islamic Republic’s establishments as well as approving of the deal but for different reasons. They share the same reasons that the Supreme Leader and IRGC hold: 1. Iran has kept its nuclear infrastructure 2. Iran has maintained its right to nuclear enrichment 3. Economic sanctions will be lifted, and 4. The government will be capable of strengthening its power.

Those who oppose

There exist several camps within this category who are against the nuclear deal or Iran-West improving ties.

The first category comprises some of the Iranians, who live outside or in the Islamic Republic, and argue that the nuclear agreement will remove the possibility of any governmental change in Iran. As Ziba, an Iranian human rights activist points out “The nuclear deal will lead to removal of economic sanctions and will enrich the Iranian leaders rather than the people.”

Some also make the argument that Iran-West improving relationships means that the West is not going to put pressure on the Islamic Republic anymore when it comes to domestic, political, human rights abuses, and regional aggressive policies. Another concern is that the Islamic Republic will be left with a path to obtain nuclear weapons legitimately or by cheating.

The second group which opposes the nuclear deal are the ultra -conservatives who oppose the deal for political purposes. They do not desire to see Rowhani’s camp scoring a victory and gaining a popular vote. Secondly, they think that rapprochement with the U.S. or the West will open up the country and might lead to a soft cultural revolution. They believe that the closer the political and economic system of Iran is, the easier it is to control the population and rule. They contend that the tighter they cling to the revolutionary ideologies of Ayatollah Khomeini (anti-Americanism, anti-Israel policies, etc), the more successful they will be at achieving their mission and goals.

Hopes and dreams

Many among the lower class of people are struggling to make ends meet. They might not view the nuclear deal as having any impact on their lives, and some may not have even heard of it.

Their time and focus are consumed by survival, not politics. It may be difficult for them to see the nuclear deal or the Iran-U.S. rapprochement as a crucial factor in changing the status quo of their daily lives. Some may argue that the current political and economic situation will remain the same despite the deal. They may assume that an average citizen will not witness any changes, and instead these issues will create political gains only for the leaders of both sides.

While the mainstream media displays one aspect of Iranian people’s reactions - the celebrations in the streets - the reality is much more varied. This imagery does not reflect the hopes, and dreams of the Iranian people regarding the nuclear deal and Iran-West improving ties. Every Iranian might have a differing view on what they hope for the future of Iran and their own individual lives. While some might support the deal, others may oppose it, and still many may not even think of it at all.

What is noticeable is that the hope of the young, average citizens of Iran, who supported the nuclear deal (for economic or political reasons) appears to be fading away as they do not see the immediate political and economic relief that they were assured would be the outcome of the nuclear deal and Iran-West rapprochement.


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Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is an Iranian-American scholar, author and U.S. foreign policy specialist. Rafizadeh is the president of the International American Council. He serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University and Harvard International Relations Council. He is a member of the Gulf 2000 Project at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs. Previously he served as ambassador to the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC. He can be contacted at: Dr.Rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu, or on Twitter: @MajidRafizadeh

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