Only a small percentage of Iran and America's population has ever met face to face. Almost none of both countries citizens under the age of 35 have ever engaged in long, often fascinating and passionate conversations. Perhaps an exception being Expats who left Iran decades ago for various reasons and have taken US citizenship.
This partially accounts for the eagerness witnessed in Iran these days by Americans who meet with Iranian students with their seemingly limitless energy and who like to spend hours discussing dozens of subjects after quickly shedding a fair bit of their society's social decorum.
Other visitors to Iran have commented on the 'instinctive connections' foreigners, not just Americans experience as they discover that Iranians have little in common with some Western orientalist notions of what they are supposed to be like.
Students in Iran are very open to sharing their views on everything from countless political and religious subjects to how to apply to American universities for grad school. During visits to Iran it is rare for this observer to meet with students (my favorite Iranians!) not to be asked about student exchange programs and how to obtain an American student visa so they can internationalize their higher education. The same questions are common in Syria and Lebanon's Palestinian camps.
Before the 1979 Iranian revolution and the 444 days Hostage crisis there were some 52,000 Americans studying in Iran. The number dropped to approximately 1,600 during the 1980-1990's and as recently as 24 months ago there were precisely two. As of yesterday there are five Americans studying in Iran perhaps an early sign of a thaw from the recent nuclear agreement.
We have all heard about the excitement from international business and banking interest's eager to engage across the broad once sanctions are lifted per the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) agreement and the unfreezing of tens of billions of dollars of Iranian assets held in overseas banks under EU and US sanctions. This observer is consistently amazed chatting with Iranians who are much better informed than he is about this subject.
Three young lady students from different parts of Iran, studying at Shahid Beheshti University, which offers more than 70 programs at Master's and over 30 at Ph.D. levels, delivered an animated 30 minute short course to their rapt new American friend on how they see the near-term sanctions reality.
They explained that they, along with most Iranians they know are currently holding back on their spending waiting for price drops and the arrival of better quality imported goods. This despite the fact that President Hassan Rouhani's administration over the past two years has managed to cut inflation from approximately 40 per cent to 12.6 per cent ending three successive years of economic contraction, with a 3 per cent growth rate. They authoritatively explained that any real dividends from the nuclear deal for average Iranians will take many months to materialize, and Iran's economy is still experiencing
stagnation and that oil prices have added to the strain by a halving of oil revenues, the country's economic lifeblood.
Iranians believe that some trade between Iran and the west will no doubt occur in the coming months. Economists tend to agree. But it won't amount to much anytime soon if AIPAC and its partner, the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC) succeed in their continuing their anti-Iran campaign which has been revered up since this summer's Congressional vote in favor JCPA.