In Iran, an economy in decline beats the fear of the US confrontation

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In the Iranian capital, the speech always seems to go back to how things could get worse.

Struck by the sanctions of the United States and its currency devaluation, the 80 million people in Iran struggle to buy meat, medicine and other basic necessities. Now the intentions of America are being asked aloud as an aircraft carrier and other forces pour into the region for a still unexplained threat it perceives from Iran.

The Associated Press spoke of a variety of people in the streets of Tehran recently, from young and old, women wearing the all-black chador for those who cover their hair loosely.

Many say they believe that a war will not come to the region, although they remain willing to defend their country. They think Iran should try to talk to the United States to help its anemic economy, even if they see President Donald Trump as an irregular and unreliable opponent.

"Trump is not at all predictable and we don't know how to react to him and what is the right thing to do against him," said Afra Hamedzadeh, a 20-year-old employee and university student. "Since it controls the global economy, we are somehow left with few options."

But opinions vary between the Iranian capital, Tehran, depending on whether you talk to someone coming out of Friday prayers, in the back of a shared taxi or coming out of cafes popular with young people.

"If America could do anything, now it would do many things," said Zoherh Sadeghi, a 51-year-old housewife who comes out of prayers. "He can't do anything, he can't do a damn thing."

This is an opinion shared by the 35-year-old employee Massumeh Izadpanah.

"When someone continues to scare you it means that he thinks he is not yet ready for the war: when someone really wants war, the war starts immediately. Like when Iraq attacked us, all the sudden bombs were abandoned" he said. "But right now the America simply says: I'm coming to scare Iran."

A young nation, many in all of Iran were alive for the bloody war of the years 80 with Iraq, a conflict that began when the dictator Saddam Hussein invaded and dragged on for eight years. That war, in which Saddam used chemical weapons and Iran launched attacks of human waves, killed 1 million people.

Since Trump withdrew the United States from the Iranian nuclear agreement with world powers last year, state television has always focused attention on the wounded of that war.

In the southern neighborhood of Javadieh, Tehran, veteran Mohammad Ali Moghaddam said he was ready to fight again.

"I would like to encourage my three children and grandchildren to defend Iran too," said Moghaddam, a 58-year-old welder.

Arezou Mirzaei, a 37-year-old mother, two in central Tehran, is more worried.

"I think the government should do something to avoid war," Mirzaei said. "If the war was good, then Afghanistan and Iraq would not be the disaster we see on TV."

Taxi driver Jafar Hadavand, 34, agrees.

"I think both sides will be losers if they fight each other," Hadavand said. "I think there are wise people on both sides to defend peace, not war."

However, many have indicated the economy, not the possible outbreak of war, as the main concern of Iran. The foreign currency of Iran was trading at 32,000 to $ 1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear deal. It is now at 148,000 and many have seen their life's savings wiped out.

At the national level, the unemployment rate is 12%. For young people it is even worse, with a quarter of all young unemployed, according to the Iranian statistics center.

"The economic situation is very bad, very bad, unemployment is very high and those who have had a job have lost their jobs," said Sadeghi, the housewife. "Young people cannot find a good job, or get married, or become independent."

Sores Maleki, a 62-year-old retired accountant, said talks with the United States to lift the sanctions would help restart the Iranian economy.

"We should go and talk America with courage and strength, we can do it, others have done it," Maleki said. "We can make concessions and win concessions, we have no other choice."

But such negotiations will be difficult, said 51-year-old Reza Forghani. He said Iran needed the United States to "sign a very firm contract that they could not escape and they had to honor". Otherwise, Iran should abandon the nuclear agreement.

"When someone refuses to keep promises and commitments, you can tolerate it a couple of times, but then you certainly can't stay busy forever, you'll react," Forghani said. "So I don't think we should stay committed to the agreement until the end."

Yet for the Iranian youth, many of whom celebrated the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal on the streets, the situation now seems more like a funeral. Many openly discuss their options for obtaining a visa – any visa – to go abroad.

"Young people have a lot of stress and the future is unknown," said 20-year-old Hamedzadeh. "The future is so unknown that you can't plan, the only thing they can do is to leave Iran somehow and build a life abroad."

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