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Iran Nuclear Talks Weigh On Those Watching From Afar

Iranians at home and those living abroad are closely watching international talks this week aimed at ending Iran's controversial nuclear program. Many are hopeful that the negotiations could end years of animosity between the West and Iran.

On a university campus in Virginia, in the Washington suburbs, this graduate student - we'll call him Ali to protect his identity - pursues his studies and is keeping close watch on nuclear talks half a world away.

Ali is Iranian and American.

"It is a burden. A lot of us do worry if the conflict might escalate to the point where there might be war," he said. "I do fear for the livelihood of some of my friends."

Recent Developments:

  • January: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirms Iran is refining uranium to 20% fissile purity.
  • February: UN inspectors end talks in Tehran without inspecting disputed military site at Parchin.
  • April: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vows Iran will not surrender its nuclear rights.
  • May: UN inspectors report they found find traces significantly upgraded uranium at an Iranian site.
  • July: EU begins total ban on Iranian oil imports; US expands sanctions.
  • September: IAEA demands access to Parchin; Iran calls EU sanctions "irresponsible."
  • December: IAEA says it makes progress in talks with Iran. US imposes more sanctions.
  • January: Iran says it will speed up nuclear fuel work.
  • February: Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejects direct nuclear talks with the U.S. Iran and world powers meet, agree to more talks.
  • May: IAEA says Iran has expanded nuclear activity.
  • September: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Iran will not seek weapons of mass destruction. Iran and world powers agree to resume nuclear talks.
  • October: Iran holds talks with five permanent members of U.N. Security Council and Germany.
  • November: Iran holds two rounds of talks with world powers. Ayatollah Ali Khameni warns Iran will not retreat on its nuclear rights.
Like many Iranians, Ali fears repercussions for his family in Iran if he is identified talking to U.S. media. What he'd like most is for the anger and the animosity to finally go away.

“We want to see things normalized so we don’t feel a tension within ourselves, whether things are going to be safe," he said.

Born in the U.S., Ali grew up in Tehran, where his father still lives and where he says friends struggle to make a living as Western sanctions weigh heavily on the faltering economy... and on the minds of many Iranians.

"We hope that, God willing, they reach a deal and the sanctions are lifted," said Tehran resident Mohammadi.

Such sentiments of hope have been echoed repeatedly to Arash Sigarchi, host of VOA Persian's Straight Talk call-in show which hears from people in Tehran.

“If Iran can solve the problem they can find better job, they can receive more money," he said. "Because right now they are frustrated because of the sanctions and they are looking for new window to find better life in Iran."

Still, there are many in Iran who are wary of a deal with the West. Iranian TV this week showed hundreds of students forming a human chain around Iran's Fordo enrichment facility in support of Iran's nuclear activities.

There's also Ali's father, in Tehran, from the generation that took part in the Iranian revolution.

“He’s hopeful that things will get better, but he is largely skeptical of American intentions - what will they demand in order to have some sort of settlement or peace," he said.

Knowing both American and Iranian cultures, Ali remains hopeful.

“It will cause more inner peace for myself in a way to know there is not going to be a conflict and that I could just easily move between here and home [Iran] and just feel comfortable," he said.

Waiting for the time when he is no longer caught between two worlds.

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