How The Trump Administration's Sanctions Are Affecting Iranians Reporting from Tehran, NPR's Steve Inskeep talks about how the Trump administration's decision to reimpose sanctions is affecting Iranians and whom they blame for their economic woes.
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How The Trump Administration's Sanctions Are Affecting Iranians

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How The Trump Administration's Sanctions Are Affecting Iranians

How The Trump Administration's Sanctions Are Affecting Iranians

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And let's hear now from inside Iran and ask, how are these sanctions affecting Iran's government and its people? Well, our colleague Steve Inskeep of NPR's Morning Edition is there. He is reporting all this week from Tehran.

Hey, Steve.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Hey there, Mary Louise.

KELLY: What does it feel like there? Does it feel like a city under siege from sanctions?

INSKEEP: Not when you first show up. It is a vast, modern megacity on the side of this mountain range. Immense traffic takes hours to get from one place to another. But when you stop, when you get out of the car, when you talk to people, you do sense enormous economic pressure that people are feeling just to get through their days.

KELLY: In what way? What do they tell you?

INSKEEP: Well, inflation is really bad. Food prices are way up, and medicine, in some cases, is hard to come by. We visited a cancer clinic, and we spoke with Dr. Mastaneh Sanei, who is a doctor there. She's got U.S.-made radiation machines, and they're hard to maintain. Let's listen.

MASTANEH SANEI: You have to repair some parts, and you have not access to the main company. And you're not able to buy the spare parts we need.

INSKEEP: She also says she can't get U.S.-made chemotherapy drugs and has to rely on older forms of chemotherapy treatment.

KELLY: But hang on. Let me stop you for a sec there because I thought medicine and food were not supposed to be covered by U.S. sanctions. That's what the U.S. says.

INSKEEP: And the U.S. is right about that. They are not covered. But for Iran to buy that stuff from outside, foreign firms have to sell it, which requires financing, bank transactions.

KELLY: Sure.

INSKEEP: And they're afraid of getting caught by U.S. banking sanctions. There's also problems within Iran, by the way, with corruption, with mismanagement. In any case, some medical materials are in short supply.

KELLY: All right. Well, this prompts me to ask you, then - who do Iranians blame for these problems? Do they blame their government? Do they blame the sanctions?

INSKEEP: This is the key question because the U.S. would like them to pressure their government. Of course, Iran would like its people to blame the U.S. Many do blame the United States here because people are aware of the sanctions. But in interviews with ordinary people, like some we did the other night in a park - it was a holiday. It was the evening. People went out in this very hot city in the cool of the evening. They were out on blankets, smoking shisha, eating food.

KELLY: Sounds lovely.

INSKEEP: They - it was a lovely scene, and people had very free conversations. And in quite a few cases, they specifically blamed their own government and, among other things, blamed their government for not being willing to negotiate. You'll recall that Iran's supreme leader recently said there was no point in negotiating with President Trump, who'd indicated he would like to talk in some way. There are at least some Iranians who disagree with that decision and who lay the blame for a lot of their troubles in a lot of different ways on their government.

KELLY: What about Iran's leaders - any sign you have been able to pick up on that they are feeling the effects of the sanctions or are changing their behavior in any way?

INSKEEP: I don't think that the elites feel this very much at all because they have the resources to be able to adjust. If you're in the northern part of Tehran, which is the really wealthy part, there's actually a construction boom with yellow construction cranes all over the place and lots of construction noises and buildings going up, apparently, as people put their money into real estate, which seems like a safer bet than some other things.

KELLY: Steve, before I let you go, I'm just curious your impression as you speak to people how free they seem to feel to speak to you - I mean, compared to past visits. You've been there how many times?

INSKEEP: This is my sixth visit over about 10 years. And I think the debate, which is always more free in Iran than you would imagine from outside, has become still more free in the last couple of years. People are more explicit than I've noticed in the past when they do have critical things to say about the government, although I think, by and large, people still support the general idea of this government and do not necessarily support policies of the United States.

KELLY: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Glad to talk to you.

KELLY: Steve Inskeep reporting there from Tehran. He will have more reporting. You'll hear it on NPR's Morning Edition over the next three days.

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