CNN went to Tehran this week, to coincide with the new Iranian government's big push for rapprochement with the United States. To get a sense of how regular Iranians feel about America, the network set up a camera and microphone downtown and invited those who walked past to share their thoughts on the country that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sometimes refers to as the "Great Satan."
Their responses offer an interesting glimpse into how the United States is perceived in Iran. They tended to be pretty positive, with some big caveats. "We love Americans," was a common refrain, but so was sharp criticism of U.S. foreign policy. "Our problem is with American politicians." Watch it here:
"You're not the boss of the world," one woman says to the camera. "Don't meddle in our business," says another, "Just let us live in peace." A young woman says, a bit more pointedly: "Your behavior is not very good. Your politics are about war, and it's terrifying."
Polling inside Iran is, for obvious reasons, rare. But the comments here seemed to generally track with what I've seen from polls and more anecdotal reports: that Iranians hold a favorable view of Americans but a negative view of U.S. foreign policy, which they often see as bullying, insulting and unfair toward Iran. Comparisons to imperialism are not uncommon.
"We never, ever started a war," one woman points out, decrying U.S. concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
Of course, this video is far from a statistically rigorous survey of Iranian public opinion. It's filmed from one spot in one neighborhood of Tehran and is not representative of all of Tehran, much less all of Iran. And the passersby likely self-selected for people who would be okay standing front of a CNN camera -- English-speakers seem common. Still, it gives us a brief foray into the nuances of Iranian opinions of the Unites States.