By Mick Krever, CNN
Residents of Tehran were ecstatic this weekend when Iran and world powers struck a nuclear deal, New York Times Tehran Bureau Chief Thomas Erdbrink told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
“These people have been living under incredible pressures over the last years,” Erdbrink said. “They had to face sanctions, high unemployment, high inflation, and basically they have grown so accustomed to hearing only horrible news that this is the first time in almost a decade that they’re hearing something positive.”
That elation, though, had died down a bit by Monday.
“People today were a bit more subdued,” he said, “and they were telling me, ‘Sure, we made this deal and we are happy, but we’ve been tricked so many times. Maybe this time we’ll be tricked again.’”
Really, he said, they are just anxious for change.
“One young man came up to me and he told me, ‘Thomas, I am now 30 years old. When Ahmadinejad came to power I was 22. Why were those eight years of my life wasted? Why am I still without a job? Why do I hold a university degree but don’t have a future in this country?’”
Iran, the U.S., and the five other negotiating countries hailed the deal as a breakthrough in relations, and an important interim step towards a more comprehensive negotiated agreement.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei, who has backed President Hassan Rouhani in the negotiations, is “widely seen as the architect behind the scenes,” Erdbrink said.
“We don’t know what prompted him to make this deal, but he has clearly given the go-ahead to President Rouhani to go out there and start trying to repair those broken relations with the West.”
Khamanei said yesterday that he supported the interim deal that had been reached, but with “one caveat.”
“He said, ‘The way you present the deal to me sounds like a success.’ So he left a kind of way out in case the deal doesn’t work in the future for him to say, ‘Well this is not working out, I haven’t totally backed this deal to the maximum.’”
Nonetheless, Iran’s hard-line clerics and Revolutionary Guard commanders, Erdbrink said, “have been very, very silent on this deal.”
“Most factions in power are in full support of the deal as it is now. Will they still support it after a week? After a month, when maybe some issues will be raised, some problems will start? We don’t know.”
In the meantime, emotions among Iranians are running high he said – “people are ready to cling on to everything they can.”
“That’s why Foreign Minister Zarif was welcomed at the Tehran airport as a hero, with people shouting his name, the man of the hour,” he said.
For those people, for the unemployed like the man who came up to Erdbrink, “Mister Zarif is the only, their only hope for now for a better future.”