LONDON (Reuters) – Iranian and U.S. leaders have reassured their nations that they do not seek war. But among ordinary Iranians who already face hardship from tightening sanctions, nerves are being strained by worry that the situation could slip out of control.
In interviews conducted from outside the country by telephone and online, Iranians described heated discussions at home, on the streets and on social media.
The prospect of war was now the main topic of conversation in workplaces, taxis and buses, Nima Abdollahzade, a legal consultant at an Iranian startup company, told Reuters.
“Apart from the deterioration in the Iranian economy, I believe the most severe effect” of confrontation with the United States “is in the mental situation of ordinary Iranians,” he said. “They are sustaining a significant amount of stress.”
The United States pulled out of an agreement between Iran and world powers a year ago that limited Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions.
This month tensions have risen sharply, with Washington extending its sanctions to ban all countries from importing Iranian oil. A number of U.S. officials led by National Security Adviser John Bolton have made hawkish remarks, citing Iranian threats against U.S. interests. Trump himself tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.”
Iran has tended to dismiss the tough talk as a bluff – “psychological warfare” from a U.S. administration not ready for a fight. But some Iranians say the tension could have its own logic, raising the chance of a mistake leading to violence.