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More Iran talks, but do Iranians care?

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ashtonby Imran Khan

It was, perhaps, the best outcome.

The announcement of more talks between the group called the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Britain, Russia, China, France - plus Germany) and Iran on June 18 and 19 in the Russian capital Moscow is being seen in Tehran as a good thing.

Although most are not hiding their disappointment that the talks in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, did not deliver a more comprehensive agreement, there is a renewed interest in what happens next. 

Dr Zibakalem Sadegh, a professor of politics at Tehran University, and decade’s long observer of the relationship between Iran and the West, told me over tea that "the best we could have hoped for is more talks".

"The optimism of the last few days has meant that many people have been calling me, asking if I had news from Baghdad. Even people with no interest in the talks suddenly wanted to know more," he said.

Amongst Iranians there has been a real sense of deja vu over the talks with the West. For the very poor, every day is a challenge. For the very rich, who are insulated from the rigours of everyday hardship, it is like a sport. They watch and wonder who will win.

It is the Iranian middle class that are being squeezed. They are the salaried men and women who cannot simply hike up their wages every time inflation rises. They are educated, and want the best for their families, but in the face of rising costs they struggle.

'Struggle forever'

And that is why the nuclear talks have been of so little interest to them. They find it difficult to cope with the everyday, so why worry about nuclear talks that are out of their hands?

But that has changed over the last week.

With the visit of Yukiya Amano, UN's nuclear watchdog chief to Tehran, and the talks in Baghdad, there is a renewed interest.

I spoke to Mohammed who works for an engineering department of the government here in Tehran.

He is a family man, living in ordinary suburb of the city.

He was frustrated at the lack of progress between the West and Iran and had almost given up hope that things could change.

"There's a difference between the governments and the people. If the people of the West saw how we lived I'm sure they would pressure their governments to make progress. I had given up on the talks, every time it was the same, nothing would change. The food in the markets would go up, but my salary remained the same ... I think, sometimes we would struggle forever."

As Mohammed continued to talk, I was heartened by how he was able to switch between his understanding of the Western position on Iran, and his clear love for his country.

Like many, the last week has offered him hope. "I wish it would change, It would be a good thing that Iran and the West can come to an agreement. We need it. Life is expensive here, change will be good."

It seems after years of simply not caring about the talks and the West threats toward the country middle class Iranians are now allowing themselves a little hope.

Hope that an agreement can be reached, that sanctions will be lifted, and that the Iranian middle class, overwhelmingly in the majority, will find some relief after being squeezed for so long.


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