At a time when US officials are increasingly confident that economic and political pressure alone may succeed in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the mood here has turned bleak and belligerent as Iranians prepare grimly for a period of prolonged hardship and, they fear, war.
This stark contrast has been evident in the Iranian capital this week as a top military commander declared a “critical point” in the country’s long feud with the West and ordinary Iranians stocked up on essential supplies. Merchants watched helplessly as the Iranian currency, the rial, shed more than a third of its value, triggering huge increases in the prices of imported goods.
“I will tell you what this is leading to: war,” said a merchant in Tehran’s popular Paytakht bazaar who gave his name only as Milad. “My family, friends and I — we are all desperate.”
The sense of impending confrontation is not shared in Washington and other Western capitals, where government officials and analysts expressed cautious satisfaction that their policies are working.
Economists and businessmen say that after years of erratic economic policies by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, each new round of sanctions aimed at Iran’s key oil income increases fears of an overall economic meltdown.
“It’s basic economic law,” said Jamshid Edalatian, a retired professor of economics, former banker and member of Iran’s chamber of commerce. “When people start worrying about the future, they start buying strong currencies to use in difficult times, and right now everybody is baffled and confused over the future.”
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