What Iranians think of Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress

05.03.2015 15:28

Benjamin Netanyahu's
speech in front of U.S. Congress was never
intended to reach an audience in Iran, but it
certainly did.
While Iranian media outlets did not show it
live, many people said they would seek out
what the Israeli Prime Minister had to say
because the negotiations with world leaders
on Iran's nuclear program were so important
to them.
At the Tajrish market in Tehran, where many
people go to shop both for food as well as
clothes and everyday items, there was
widespread condemnation of Netanyahu's
speech among the shoppers.
"America is trying to reach something with
Iran, an agreement," one young man said.
"But Netanyahu and Israel are trying to stop
it, they are banning us."
And another man talking about the speech
added: "He started five years ago, this
attacking. But in this case it is no problem
for Iran, what he is talking about."
The Iranian political establishment seemed
to have a similar view. After blasting the
speech shortly after it happened on Tuesday,
the spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry in
Tehran, Marzieh Afkham, said Wednesday
that Iran did not care about the speech and
was focused on reaching a deal that would
benefit the country.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu told Congress that
one potential deal being discussed between
Iran and world powers would pave the way
for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons -- and
would destabilize not just the Middle East,
but the entire world.
But nuclear technology remains an issue of
national pride for many Iranians, who
believe their country has the right to develop
the technology.
Afkham says that Iran sees Netanyahu's
speech as a campaign maneuver that will
drive a wedge between Israel and its
Western allies, especially Barack Obama.
Netanyahu is running for a fourth term as
Israel's prime minister in elections on March
"The continued lies of the Netanyahu
regarding the aims and intentions of the
peaceful nuclear program of Iran are
repetitive and sickening," Afkham said. "With
the continuation of the negotiations and the
serious will of Iran to remove this artificial
crisis, the politics of 'Iranophobia' are facing
major problems."
Mohammad Marandi, a professor for North
American studies at Tehran University and
an outspoken critic of U.S. policies towards
Iran, told CNN he believes the fears over
Iran's nuclear capabilities are overblown.
"In a poll carried out in Iran a month ago, 70
percent of Iranians believe that the nuclear
program is completely peaceful," he said,
"and in addition to that, the fact that the
religious authorities in Iran have given
fatwas against nuclear weapons adds to this
But fatwas -- religious rulings -- will not
ease the fears in the West that Iran is
secretly planning to develop a bomb. And
Iranians in the Tajrish market seem
somewhat skeptical that the current talks
will produce an agreement.
"We have lost hope in everything," one
woman told CNN. "I don't think it will
happen. I don't have belief in anything."
Others seemed more optimistic. "They have
to reach and agreement," another woman
said, "because we have many problems
She is referring to the international
sanctions that continue to cripple Iran's
economy. Unemployment is high, especially
among younger people, and there is a lack of
foreign investment that makes economic
development even more difficult. The people
CNN spoke to said lifting the sanctions was
the most important issue for them in regards
to the current nuclear talks.
"It is very important to us," one young man
said. "Think about it, our country is going to
become very different in every kind of thing.
In the economy, in politics, it is going to
make a lot of difference."
While people seemed cautiously optimistic,
many realize that negotiations still have a
long way to go and could ultimately fail,
leaving many Iranians facing a bleak and
uncertain future.