In Tehran, a historic deal is played down

Iranians, who have experienced multiple disappointments and broken promises during two years of negotiations, give low-key reception to lifting of sanctions.

January 17, 2016 11:36 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 03:13 am IST

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, second left, who is also Iran's top nuclear negotiator is surrounded by a group of lawmakers in an open session of parliament in Tehran on Sunday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, second left, who is also Iran's top nuclear negotiator is surrounded by a group of lawmakers in an open session of parliament in Tehran on Sunday.

n the day that crushing international sanctions against Iran were lifted, state television opened its morning hourly news program with an item on children’s vaccinations. There were no flag-waving youths or cheering crowds on Tehran’s streets, just the usual Saturday morning rush hour, the start of the Iranian workweek.

The low-key reception given to “implementation day,” when the nuclear deal was finally completed and Iran was freed to rejoin the international economy, reflected the multiple disappointments and broken promises Iranians have experienced in the two years the negotiations dragged on. While the government talked up the deal to lift people’s hopes, few expected to see any improvement in their lives.

“I haven’t seen any excitement,” said Ali Shoja, an office cleaner riding the Tehran subway on his way to work. “They speak of billions of dollars coming, but as in the past, I don’t expect those dollars to reach my pockets.”

Even the swap of seven Iranians held in U.S. prisons for Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and three other Americans held here failed to stir up interest.

State television had its own reason to play down the milestone. The end to the sanctions is a success for the government of President Hassan Rouhani, but comes at a cost for Iran’s ruling system.

Since the deal was signed last July, Iran has had to put into storage more than 12,000 centrifuges, ship out almost its entire stockpile of enriched uranium and remove the core of its heavy-water reactor. Many officials, especially hard-liners, find it hard to present the nuclear agreement as a victory, especially when so much was given up in compromise. “Nuclear burial,” the hardline newspaper Vatan-e Emrouz wrote in a headline on its front page on Saturday, showing a picture of freshly poured concrete, similar to what replaced the core of the reactor.

The government, at odds with the hardliners, prefers to focus on the economic gains Iran can expect now that sanctions, some in place since 2007, are lifted.

Mr. Rouhani also emphasises at almost every opportunity how, during his administration, Iran has stepped out of its isolation. — New York Times News Service

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