As tensions rise, Iranians fear that they’re on the road to war with U.S.

Here and Now

As Iran, Israel and the United States continue to spar over what the west say are Iran’s ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, Iran has taken a step that some say is positive.

Iranian officials invited inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to stay beyond the three days originally planned for their trip. Inspectors, however, say their mission will end today, as planned.

Meanwhile, in Israel, debate continues about whether there is an imperative to attack now, as Iran works to bring its nuclear facilities further underground.

Thomas Erdbrink, Iran correspondent for The Washington Post, said the current situation, which has led to economic hardships, has frightened many people — at least in Tehran, where Erdbrink is based.

“You can see that the fear the current will collapse even further, therefore they are investing in things that keep their value,” he said. “People were lining up to buy cheaper gold coins. I visited the foreign currency bazaar and people were trying to buy dollars everywhere.”

Erdbrink said the sanctions are having a serious effect on everyday life. People are getting desperate, he said, worried that these steps are marching the country toward war.

“There is a very big sense of hopelessness in the country,” Erdbrink said. “Iran’s leaders are trying to give it a positive spin. They say this is a tough time. They compare it to the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.”

But while Iranian officials insist that Iran can weather these latest sanctions, Erdbrink said the people he talks to aren’t so sure. In the past 10 years, as oil prices have soared, Iranians have seen their standard of living dramatically improve. They’ve become more accustomed to traveling, they’ve started watching satellite TV and connecting with people on Facebook. 

They think there’s no resolution coming from the Americans or the Iranians. They’re also making plans for where they’ll go and what supplies they’ll use — should a war break out.

For their part, American officials don’t believe these steps are sending America and Iran on the road to war. Plus, they’re cautiously optimistic that their sanctions are having the intended effect. But what’s unclear is what that effect really is.

“Is the West’s aim to prevent Iran’s leaders from making a nuclear weapon, or is it the West’s aim to overthrow the Iranian leadership?” Erdbrink said. “People here are getting more the feeling that even if the nuclear case would be solved, the pressure will probably continue. And that probably explains their hopelessness.”

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.