PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Ali Velshi, from Al Jazeera America, addressed his trip to Iran and the impact of lifting sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing its nuclear program will have on the majority of Iranians.
Velshi explained to Chris Stigall on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT why there was so much excitement in Iran following the announcement of the deal, while many in the U.S. questioned the agreement.
“We don’t ‘get’ anything. Even if Iran had nuclear weapons, most Americans wouldn’t feel the effect of that. They don’t have nuclear weapons that can reach America. America doesn’t feel like it gets anything. American businesses feel like they get something because it’s a country of 80 million highly educated people. In Iran, they have these sanctions and the worst of which are the banking sanctions. Since 2012, they’re off what’s called the Swift Banking system. You cannot transfer money internationally via a bank in Iran. When I went there, I had to go in with all the money I needed because credit cards don’t work, ATM cards don’t work, which means if you’re an Iranian, you can’t buy things from overseas. If you’re an Iranian company, you can’t buy things because you can’t pay for them. If you have things to sell, you can’t sell them to the rest of the world.”
He said that despite portrayals in the media, Iranian consumers have similar desires to those in the rest of the world.
“People have iPhones. There are more stores with an Apple insignia than I’ve seen in most U.S. cities, Coca-Cola is one of the most widely consumed beverages, American films [are] not legally distributed, but bootlegged. I was in the Times Square equivalent of Tehran, and a guy opened up a sheet full of DVDs. He was cleaned out in about five minutes. I couldn’t get access to certain websites while I was there because they’re banned, things like the BBC. People laughed at me, saying you’re the only person in the country that can’t get access to it because we all use proxy servers and VPN. In fact, what I’ve found is young people there, Millennials and 30-year-olds, are pretty much exactly the same as they are here.”
Velshi also feels tensions continue to exist between Iran and the U.S. because we have differing perspectives on our historical relationship.
“People told me they like Americans, [but] they really dislike American foreign policy in the Middle East which, basically, they say, favors Saudi Arabia and Israel at Iran’s expense. That’s not untrue. Saudi Arabia and Israel are big recipients of American largess. The problem with Iran is that Americans see Iran as a place that in 1979, a bunch of bearded fanatics took over and deposed the Shah. Iranians see it different. Back in 1953, the CIA deposed their democratically elected government and put the Shah in power, and the Shah stayed in power until 1979 when, in the mind of Iranians, they got their country back.”