By Jean Aziz, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
Among Iranian Reformists, Hope goes Hand in Hand with Pragmatism
From the look on his face, the security officer at Imam Khomeini International Airport seemed surprised that most arrivals weren’t Iranian. A long queue stretched to the one passport control counter reserved for foreigners, while the other five counters dedicated to Iranians were largely deserted.
Eventually, one of the five counters was opened to foreigners. Iran appears to be opening up more quickly than the government anticipated.
From the airport, Al-Monitor’s columnist got a cab straight to the holy city of Qom, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of Tehran. Halfway there, a vast military area suddenly appeared. It was surrounded by barbed wire that extended over several kilometers and was punctuated by security checkpoints.
The driver explained that it was the Fordo nuclear facility. “Iran has managed to keep this facility in operation. This is a symbol of Tehran’s victory in the tough international tug of war with the West, ongoing for years now,” he told Al-Monitor.
At first glance, Qom appears to be the Vatican City of Shiites to the first-time visitor. There are countless mosques, and various sermons simultaneously echo from different pulpits. In the main street, leading to Lady Fatima Masuma Shrine — one of the largest Shiite shrines in Iran — it seemed as if clerics were holding a massive protest. Hundreds of clerics wearing black and white turbans paced the streets and sidewalks while carrying their laptops, books and files.