Yesterday, the Washington Post ran this fascinating story by Azadeh Moaveni, author of Lipstick Jihad and Time magazine's Iran correspondent, tracking Iranian's ever-shifting attitudes towards America and Americans. Long considered the most pro-American country in the region—world's tallest midget, obviously—opinion towards The Great Satan, Moavenu argues, has ebbed and flowed during the Bush years. Back in 2004, Nicolas Kristof wrote that he had finally "found a pro-American country." The twist was, of course, that he was writing from Tehran. Kristof spoke with an inordinate number of Iranians who were "exceptionally friendly and fulsome in their praise for the United States, and often for President Bush as well." Well, that was 2004.
According Moaveni, public opinion turned against Bush and America the following year: "Starting in about 2005, Iranians' historic esteem for the United States gave way to a deep ambivalence that is only now ending. President Bush's post-9/11 wars of liberation on both of Iran's borders—in Iraq to the west and Afghanistan to the east—rattled ordinary Iranians, and Washington's opposition to Iran's nuclear programa major source of national pride—added to their resentment." But the sands, she argues, are again shifting:
"I used to hear similarly pro-American sentiments frequently back in 2001, when Iranians' romance with the United States was at its most ardent. A poll conducted that same year found that 74 percent of Iranians supported restoring ties with the United States (whereupon the pollster was tossed into prison). You couldn't attend a dinner party without hearing someone, envious of the recently liberated Afghans, ask, "When will the Americans come save us?"
It's highly unlikely that this is a widely held sentiment these days. But, Moaveni writes, the incompetent and corrupt rule of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has shifted the focus from problems in countries that border Iran (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq) to more pressing economic problems at home:
"I lived in Iran until last summer and experienced all the reasons why Ahmadinejad has replaced the United States as Iranians' top object of vexation. Under his leadership, inflation has spiked at least 20 percent, according to nongovernment analysts—thanks to Ahmadinejad's expansionary fiscal policies, which inject vast amounts of cash into the economy. My old babysitter, for example, says she can no longer afford to feed her family red meat once a week. When I recently picked up some groceries—a sack of potatoes, some green plums, two cantaloupes and a few tomatoes—the bill came to the equivalent of $40.