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Iranians welcome nuclear deal, hope for better economy

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Associated Press


Drivers honked their horns, and dozens of Iranians cheered in a main square and boulevard of the capital Tehran on Tuesday, welcoming their country’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers, which they hope will mean an end to isolation and sanctions that have crippled the economy.

The burst of celebrations underscored the hopes that many Iranians have pinned on the drawn-out talks. That public yearning for economic relief was crucial for winning moderate President Hassan Rouhani the breathing room to negotiate with Iran’s nemesis, the United States, over imposing limits on the nuclear program.

“I’m very happy,” gushed Azizieh Habibi, a 46-year-old housewife with two college-age children, who was among those celebrating on Tehran’s Vali-e Asr Avenue. Some waved flags, some had painted their faces in the flag’s red, white and green colors, chanting thanks to Rouhani and his top negotiator, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“My children will have a better future since there is no threat of sanctions and restrictions anymore,” said Habibi. “They may even go to the U.S. for more education.”

A key question now will be whether powerful hard-liners, including the elite Revolutionary Guard, who have spoken staunchly against concessions on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, will acquiesce to the accord. They were largely silent Tuesday after the deal’s announcement, most likely waiting to see the stance of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds the final word on all state matters in Iran.

Khamenei met with Rouhani on Tuesday night and expressed his “appreciation and thanks for the honest and diligent efforts” by the negotiating team, according to state TV.

The brief statement was in line with how Khamenei has played his cards close to his chest throughout the negotiations, allowing them to continue while rarely weighing in directly beyond sometimes expressing skepticism.

Many were glued to television coverage of the deal’s announcement, including President Barack Obama’s address – only the second time Iranian state TV has aired him live. The first was his speech when an interim deal was reached earlier this year, paving the way for the new agreement.

At one Tehran electronics shop, men who had gathered around TV screens at the store clapped as Rouhani addressed the nation after Obama’s appearance. Among them was shopkeeper Ali Hosseini, 29, who watched both leaders’ speeches live.

“I am proud that my country has resolved this critical issue through talks, not war,” he said.

Many in the Iranian public were well aware of the potential for hard-liners to try to undermine the accord.

“Will the revolutionary Guard support the deal?” Hashem Mohammad, 65, asked nervously after watching Rouhani’s speech.

The Guard has made no prominent remarks in recent weeks, but media outlets close to them, such as the Javan newspaper, have been critical of the negotiations. In its Tuesday edition Javan noted possible positive results of the talks such as the end of sanctions against Iran but added, “even the most optimistic experts have expressed hopelessness about realizing such a scenario.”

The hard-line Rajanews website criticized the deal, saying Iran gave away too much. “Iran has accepted comprehensive limitations [on its nuclear program] in return for suspension of some sanctions.”