PARIS — With celebrations from the streets to social media, Iranians have broadly welcomed Tuesday's deal between their country and the six major world powers to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of international economic sanctions. Still, there are differing views about how the accord will actually affect the lives of the people in Iran, from the economic impact to questions of diplomacy, security and society at large.
Iran has long been seen by many as a pariah in the international community, and the accord holds the potential to change the very standing the nation holds in the world. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the deal a "triumph of diplomacy," and there were numerous pictures of street celebrations in Tehran in immediate response to the deal. Voice of America's Persian service showed footage Wednesday of Iranians shouting "condolences" to both Israel and the hardline Iranian newspaper Kayhan — meaning this was a defeat not only for the historical Zionist enemy that lobbied Washington against talking to Iran, but also for "hardline" Iranian opponents of détente between Tehran and the West.
Jubilant street scenes aside, comments on websites and social media — as well as calls in to radio and TV broadcasts — indicate Iranian optimism was overall more sober, and the likely effects for people's own individual futures still quite unclear. Some noted the lasting harm Iran's confrontational foreign policy and erratic economics had done in the past 15, 20 or 30 years. One Twitter user Saman O said it would take a "lot more" than the end of sanctions to change life in Iran, and the inflow of cash and foreign businesses would likely provoke an immediate increase in state corruption.
Still the release of frozen assets and other reverberations to the unwinding of sanctions left some Iranians wondering whether now was finally a good time to sell long-held real estate property in Tehran, and others looking forward to the relatively cheaper cost of foreign travel.
In economic terms Iran's regime would likely be the first beneficiary of a gradual lifting of sanctions, though trickle-down effects would inevitably benefit the public. The Prague-based, Persian-language Radio Farda reported on a list of persons and firms due to be taken off the Western sanctions list. They include banks, state-affiliated and private firms (although, is anything really private in Iran?), and prominent members of the Iranian nomenklatura like the revolutionary-guards generals Mohammadreza Naqdi, Mostafa Najjar and Yahya Rahim-Safavi, as well as entities like the Revolutionary Guards navy and the national flagship airline Iran Air.
So, if ordinary Iranians were cautiously optimistic, those in big business — more often than not connected to the state — could be downright gleeful.
The journalist Vahid Pourostad tweeted a report from Iran's Tasnim news agency, about "Iranian business delegations due to visit the United States this fall." The head of Iran's international trade agency Mohammadreza Sabz'alipur was cited as saying that authorities would announce conditions on who could go.
Yet in spite of the economic opportunities opening up for Iranians and Western firms, some measure of opposition is expected to continue inside Iran, notably from the most conservative elements. Conservative Islamic reactions have so far been cautious and non-confrontational, though some outlets were telling people not to celebrate. Others mentioned the "fine print" in the deal that could give them something to work on later. The daily Resalat cited parliamentarian Fathollah Hosseini as saying that the legislature would soon be double-checking the text of the pact with nuclear policy "red lines."
Clerics in Qom, Iran — Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/ZUMA
Despite the strict religiosity of its leaders, Iranians have steadily grown more secular and thirstier for personal freedoms over the past two decades. There is no immediate evidence that the nuclear deal, and a diplomatic rapprochement with the West, will lead to real social changes. Still commentator Ahmad Hakimipur wrote in the reformist daily Aftab-e Yazd that the deal was expected to "unlock" internal problems and "we shall see some very important events" inside Iran. Beyond the economics, he wrote, Iranians expect "other openings in social, political and cultural spheres." The deal, he adds, is a "prelude" to satisfying Iranians' "other needs."