Friday September 25th, 2020 10:25PM

Iranians say US sanctions hurt people, not government

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — While opinions differ across Tehran's Grand Bazaar about the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal, there's one thing those in the beating heart of Iran's capital city agree on: American sanctions hurt the average person, not those in charge.

From an English-language teacher hoping for peace to an appliance salesman who applauded President Donald Trump as a "successful businessman," all said they suffered from the economic hardships sparked by re-imposed and newly created American sanctions. The Iranian rial's collapse has eaten into the savings of a retired bank clerk, while a young man with a shock of bleached-blond hair says those his age want to leave the country.

Iranians spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday, a day after authorities acknowledged the country had broken through the limit placed on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by the 2015 nuclear deal. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal a year ago.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have seen the U.S. rush an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers, F-22 fighters and thousands of additional troops to the Middle East. While Iran says it doesn't seek war, it recently shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone. Iran also now acknowledges an "intentional" disruption to GPS coordinates in the country by authorities, interfering with position data used by the U.S. military for airstrikes and drone flights.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran agreed to have less than 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of uranium enriched to a maximum of 3.67%, which can be used for power stations but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%. Both Iran and the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency confirmed Monday that Tehran had broken through that limit.

While that represents Iran's first major departure from the accord, it still remains likely a year away from having enough material for a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, but the West fears it could allow Iran to build a bomb.

Iran also has threatened for weeks to push its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels on July 7 if Europe doesn't put forth a new deal to protect Tehran from U.S. sanctions. As the stockpile and enrichment rises, the estimated year narrows.

"There should be some negotiations. Both parties should talk in a friendly manner," said Nahroba Alirezei, a 35-year-old English-language teacher. "They should think about the Iranian people and the Iranian society and the American society. Young people should not suffer more than this."

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged Iran to "show restraint, not yield to emotions." China expressed regret, while French President Emmanuel Macron urged Iran to reduce its stockpile.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain and the European Union's foreign policy chief said that "we have been consistent and clear that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran." They urged Iran to reverse the move "and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that Iran will comply with the deal to the same extent as European signatories implement their economic commitments.

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani criticized the increasing U.S. military presence in a televised speech.

"They think they can just come and occupy a country by sending four warships to the region," Larijani said. He also warned other countries in the region not to join any U.S. coalition against it, saying: "If they rally against us, they will have to pay the price for it."

While the government says challenging the West over its nuclear program is necessary, some Iranians like Sajjad Nazary, a 23-year-old university student in Tehran, question the move as leading to more economic suffering.

"Instead of the nuclear program, the Iranian people need bread," Nazary told the AP outside of Tehran's sprawling bazaar. "They want their economic situation to get better. The point is with nuclear energy, you can't make your children's bellies feel full."

But Nazary, like others there, said he didn't believe a war would break out.

"Trump is too smart to do that and he'll in no way harm himself like that," Nazary said. "The situation is dangerous but none of us are aware of the politics. Maybe all of this was a threat to meant to open some new ways."

He added: "This was just a threat to make the Iranian officials come to their senses."

Despite that optimism, there are signs Iran is taking the threat of a possible military escalation seriously.

Hossein Fallah Joshaghani, a government telecommunications official, told the state-run IRNA news agency Monday that the source of the GPS disruptions in the country had been determined, but no action was taken. That suggests an authority in Iran is actively disrupting GPS systems, which can be used for U.S. drones and airstrikes, as well as civil aviation and mobile phone apps.

While some blame Trump for the tensions, Mehdi Hamzeh Nia, a 39-year-old appliance salesman, applauded the U.S. president as a "successful businessman, a man who knows what he's doing and doesn't want others to know what he's doing."

Asked about the economy, which has seen the rial go from 32,000 to $1 to now nearly 130,000, Hamzeh Nia blamed not just the sanctions but local mismanagement as well. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran's government has careened between economic crises involving poor planning and embezzlement, which U.S. sanctions have exacerbated.

"I think 50% is related to sanctions and 50% is domestic," he said. "Even if the foreign 50% is resolved, and the domestic 50% is not fixed, our situation will still get worse."

That fall in the rial has hit retirees particularly hard. Yussuf, a retired banking official who would only give the AP his first name for fear of retribution, said things remained extremely difficult for those on fixed incomes like himself. He said he took on odd jobs to help make ends meet.

"I think in very tough situations, wise decisions are made easier," he said. "I think that the officials at the right moment will not let us fall off the edge of a cliff."

But he was not complimentary of Trump's approach.

"In the past he was not predictable, but now he almost is," Yussuf said. "For everyone around the world, it's now clear that he only thinks about American interests."

Nazary and Hamzeh Nia, both younger men, said they thought about leaving Iran, given the stress. Hamzeh Nia said he worried about how to support his family, which includes a 5-year-old son.

"We would love to leave, if the situation remains like this," Hamzeh Nia said. "There is no future for you here."

But the most pressing concern for Alirezei, the English teacher, is the need to ease tensions.

"It's not a good idea to respond to threats with threats," Alirezei said.

Asked what she hoped for, she responded in English: "Peace, just peace."


Associated Press producer Mehdi Fattahi and writer Nasser Karimi contributed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Financial Markets
© Copyright 2020
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Iranians say US sanctions hurt people, not government
Iranians say US sanctions hurt the average person, not those in charge, as tensions rise between the US and Iran
1:34PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Pence abruptly cancels New Hampshire trip
Vice President Mike Pence abruptly cancels planned trip to New Hampshire, no explanation given
1:31PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Angels, MLB mourn Skaggs after pitcher dies in hotel room
Angels, MLB mourning 27-year-old pitcher Tyler Skaggs after he dies in Texas hotel room
1:28PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
To boost milk, dairy groups see hope in lattes in schools
Coffee bars are popping in high schools, and not just because students want to cram for tests
1:00PM ( 40 minutes ago )
House committee files lawsuit for Trump tax returns
A House committee has filed a lawsuit after being denied President Donald Trump's tax returns
12:59PM ( 40 minutes ago )
Big business to Supreme Court: Defend LGBTQ people from bias
More than 200 corporations urge US Supreme Court to rule that federal civil rights law bans job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
12:46PM ( 53 minutes ago )
AP National News
Congressman shares video of migrants held at border facility
The chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus disclosed stark video and photos of migrant women being held at a border facility in Texas
11:39AM ( 2 hours ago )
Chileans and Argentines ready to gaze at total solar eclipse
Tens of thousands of tourists have flocked to cities and towns across northern Chile to stake out spots in one of the world's best locations to witness Tuesday's total solar eclipse
11:23AM ( 2 hours ago )
Report: Nike pulls flag sneaker after Kaepernick complaint
Report: Nike is pulling a Betsy Ross' flag-themed tennis shoe after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick complained to the shoemaker
11:12AM ( 2 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
UK bank chief: trade war may 'shipwreck' global economy
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has warned that the British economy could be slowing down by more than anticipated in the wake of mounting Brexit uncertainties and intensified trade tensions
12:48PM ( 51 minutes ago )
UK court rules Indian tycoon may appeal extradition
U.K. judges have ruled that Indian entrepreneur Vijay Mallya has been given the right to appeal his extradition to India in Britain's High Court
12:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
French protesters block Amazon sites over climate, jobs
Environmental activists have chained themselves to gates and turnstiles as they occupied an Amazon building near Paris
12:26PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
US stocks bob around record highs as trade euphoria eases
Stock markets around the world teeter-tottered on Tuesday, as investors mull what exactly will come of the latest truce in the U.S.-China trade war
10:55AM ( 2 hours ago )
Trade truce euphoria eases, and markets tread water
Stock markets around the world teeter-tottered on Tuesday, as investors mull what exactly will come of the latest truce in the U.S.-China trade war
10:18AM ( 3 hours ago )
Trade truce euphoria eases and markets tread water
Global stock markets traded in fairly narrow ranges Tuesday as investors moved on from the latest truce in the costly U.S.-Chinese trade war.
9:00AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
OPEC extends oil production cuts amid weaker demand outlook
The oil producers' cartel, OPEC, is considering a six- to nine-month extension of its current deal to cut production amid weakening demand due to slowing global economic growth
5:27PM ( 20 hours ago )
S&P 500 hits all-time as US-China trade truce spurs optimism
Wall Street kicked off July with a record high for S&P 500 index after a cease-fire in the U.S. trade war with China put Wall Street in a buying mood
5:15PM ( 20 hours ago )
US stocks climb as traders welcome US-China trade cease-fire
Stocks marched broadly higher late Monday afternoon after a cease-fire in the U.S. trade war with China put Wall Street in a buying mood
3:43PM ( 21 hours ago )
AP Business - Financial Markets
Pence abruptly cancels New Hampshire trip
Vice President Mike Pence abruptly cancels planned trip to New Hampshire, no explanation given
1:31PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Angels, MLB mourn Skaggs after pitcher dies in hotel room
Angels, MLB mourning 27-year-old pitcher Tyler Skaggs after he dies in Texas hotel room
1:28PM ( 11 minutes ago )
The Latest: Williams opens bid for 24th major with victory
Serena Williams opened her bid for a 24th Grand Slam title with a straight-set victory on Centre Court at Wimbledon
1:20PM ( 19 minutes ago )
The Latest: EU leaders break deadlock, nominate new chiefs
European Union leaders have broken three days of deadlock and nominated new heads for the 28-nation bloc's institutions
1:16PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Washington playing stellar defense during winning streak
Washington Mystics playing stellar defense during 5-game winning streak
1:11PM ( 28 minutes ago )