Iranians see economic promise in nuclear accord


Iranians look at newspapers displayed outside a kiosk in Tehran a day after a deal was reached on the country's nuclear program. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
November 25, 2013

A new sense of economic optimism has reverberated across Iran since the signing over the weekend of an initial deal between Tehran and world powers that is aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

For a second straight day Monday, the local currency, the rial, rose about 2 percent against the U.S. dollar, regaining some of the value it has lost since last year, as the promise that some sanctions against Iran would be eased under the accord gave rise to hopes that the Islamic republic’s long economic isolation might come to an end.

“Here in Iran, everyone is happy,” said a headline published Monday on the front page of the reformist newspaper Etemaad along with a photograph of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry smiling and shaking hands.

Tehran officials have hailed the deal as one that is economically favorable to Iran, portraying it in much more positive terms compared with their American counterparts, who have said that any benefits to Iran will be severely restricted.

The agreement allows Iran limited access to oil revenue, which had been cut off in recent months, and eases curbs on Iran’s auto industry, a key employer. On Monday, Iran’s domestic news media said $8 billion in frozen Iranian assets had been released, but the United States and its allies have not confirmed the figure.

U.S. officials said the financial relief will be narrow and could be reversed after six months unless Iran agrees to take further steps to limit its nuclear program.

“This relief is limited, temporary, targeted and reversible,” a senior Obama administration official said in a conference call over the weekend after the deal was signed. The official spoke under rules that required anonymity. “It is designed so that the core of our sanctions, the sanctions that have had a tremendous bite — the oil, banking and financial sanctions — all remain in place.’’

Improving Iran’s economy has been a key goal for President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in June after a campaign in which he called for improving the country’s relationship with the world. Rouhani could claim few measurable successes until the initial agreement with the P5+1 group was signed in Geneva over the weekend. The group consists of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — and Germany.

“What has happened during Rouhani’s 100 days has given peace and calm back to the Iranian people,” said Saeed Laylaz, a local analyst. “The value of our national money has increased, putting an end to our economic free fall.”

In Tehran, as well as in Washington, those who have embraced the accord remain wary of celebrating before a permanent deal is finalized, recognizing the potential for further discord. With Israel strongly opposed to the interim agreement, the Obama administration is trying to dissuade Israel’s supporters in Congress from imposing new sanctions on Iran at a time when talks are expected to continue.

In Iran, some conservatives disapprove of what they have portrayed as Rouhani’s conciliatory approach. But those voices are being drowned out, especially as Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, signaled his acceptance of the initial deal Sunday.

Among ordinary Iranians, a sense of hope remains palpable.

“This is great news to me. It means peace to me,” said Ghasem Mansoorian, a 73-year-old retired government worker. “I have seen bad days in this country and hope that in future all we see is agreement and deals rather than war and conflict. Our economy, which is suffering, will now move forward, and hopefully our spending power will improve.”

Jason Rezaian has been The Post’s correspondent in Tehran since 2012. He was previously a freelance writer based in Tehran.
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