Dissecting Iran: What the People Want

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TEHRAN, Iran - Americans aren't the only ones experiencing difficult economic times.

Half a world away the people of Iran suffer from double digit unemployment and inflation rates. They also live under a repressive regime bent on the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

CBN News recently visited Iran and found the people friendly, but concerned about their future.

Not Entirely What it Seems

Iran. From the outside this cornerstone of President Bush's axis of evil the nation does seem evil - and bent on developing nuclear weapons, destroying Israel, American culture and the West.

But those who visit the country experience something completely different: friendly and hospitable people - a people who love and admire America and western culture.

In the 17th century people would come to Imam Square in the city of Isfahan, Iran to watch polo matches.

Later it was transformed into a center of commerce. And it's commerce and the economy that's on the minds of most people here today.

Iranians have suffered with an inflation rate of more than 24 percent.

Within the past year, the government says unemployment stands at about 11 percent, but many economists believe it's really 16 percent or higher.

The unemployment rate among young people, those between the ages of 15 and 24, is slightly above 25 percent.

Despite the nation's great oil wealth, many Iranians are financially strapped. Some young adults told CBN News that even though they've earned college degrees, they can't find jobs in their area of specialty.

They've been forced to take manual labor jobs that pay only $150-$200 per month. Low pay and financial pressures have caused many young men to delay marriage and starting families.

Longing for a Better Life

Most want to see a better standard of living inside Iran.

Uri Lurbani was Israeli ambassador to Iran prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"They want a good life, they want an open society and they hate being told what to do," Lurbani said.

One group of women longingly gazed upon beautiful evening gowns on display in a store window. A passerby told CBN the women would be arrested if they were seen wearing one of these dresses in public.

And two young girls were careful to tuck their hair under their head scarves. Often women and girls are reprimanded and even slapped by plain clothes police for exposing their hair while out in public. Anything deemed anti-government or against the Islamic Revolution would lead to arrested.

These are just a few examples of the way the government has imposed its oppressive ideology on the people.

A Strange Paradox

Although they would not speak on camera for fear of government retribution CBN News found many people opposed to the regime. Many want better relations with America and the West.

Yet if America or Israel bombed Iran's nuclear facilities their anti-government sentiments may likely change.

"I believe the Iranian people are very proud people, they will rally around any kind of regime if they are being attacked," Lubrani said.

So if an attack would possibly lead them to support the same regime many currently despise, then what is the solution to help the Iranian people change their government?

Lubrani says tougher economic sanctions should be imposed against the regime and the people should be told that the time is right for them to take action.

Lubrani explained, "Under the surface in Iran as it is today, you've got people who are quite prepared to take the lead but they have to know that they are going to be supported. Even amongst the mullahs because not all the mullahs are happy with the kind of ideology which is being sold by Ahmadinejad."

Running Out of Time

The people of Georgia discovered America was not prepared to take military action to defend them against the Russians.

So just how far is the United States willing to go against Iran? And are the Iranian people ready to take matters into their own hands?

Israel Knesset member Yuval Steinitz suggests time may be running out.

"This clash of civilizations between fundamentalist Islam and the West will gain nuclear dimension," Steinitz explained. "And if the Iranians get nuclear, it's going to be much worse. Not just for the future of Israel in the Middle East, but for the future of the entire world."

"And it's up to the United States of America - the only true leader of the western free world - to lead in this case as well to resolve it," he said.

*Originally aired on October 20, 2008.

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Gary Lane

Gary Lane

CBN News International Correspondent

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