TEHRAN — For years, the workers at the Iranian printing house spewed out posters with state propaganda calling for “Death to America” and resistance to the West.
Now, in the aftermath of the temporary nuclear agreement reached last month between Iran and the world powers — and the lifting of some of the economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy — they have their eye on a new market: Christmas cards for Iranian companies that want to reach out once again to their international contacts.
“We are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ali Sabzevari, one of the company’s employees, who said the company was flooded with orders for greeting cards after the deal. “We all want to be part of the world again.”
Increasingly isolated in recent years as the sanctions noose tightened, Iran’s window to the world has opened a tiny bit as the nuclear agreement promises to ease some sanctions on petrochemical exports and spare parts for Iranian cars and airplanes, as well as releasing $7 billion in funds frozen from oil sales.
While the most debilitating sanctions remain in effect, including those on oil sales and banking transactions, Iran has been swept in recent weeks with an unaccustomed emotion — hope. It has spread among private investors, companies and state-run factories that have begun to plan for a future in which all measures against the country will be lifted.
Even the most cynical say that, if nothing else, something is better than nothing.
“My company was on the verge of bankruptcy,” said Mr. Sabzevari, who added that he had felt humiliated for the years he had to resort to printing anti-American propaganda. “At least this is a first step toward a more humane life. Let’s just say that printing Christmas greetings makes me feel a whole lot happier. I guess that’s a start.”
President Hassan Rouhani, who was surprisingly elected in June promising to end the nuclear crisis, improve the economy and restore the “dignity of Iranians in the world,” has together with his administration gone out on a limb to try to convince his people that good times are underway.
They point to a 14 percent gain in Tehran’s stock market since the signing of the deal, the stabilization of the national currency and a drop in the inflation rate.
Mr. Rouhani has promised that the agreement is a first step to “the collapse of the sanctions regime.” Western companies, such as the French oil giant Total and Anglo-Dutch Shell, have said they are eager to return to the Iranian market, as have the French automakers Renault and Peugeot.
“Following our victories in domestic and foreign policy, now people have got their eyes on the economy,” the minister of the economy, Ali Tayyebnia, told a semiofficial news agency last week.
In front of Tehran’s stock exchange, Hassan Zarif said he had noticed a positive change since the nuclear deal was reached. After 10 dry years, business had picked up for the Persian-language translations of American books for investors that he sells.
“This one sells pretty good,” Mr. Zarif said, holding up a copy of “Technical Analysis of the Financial Markets,” by John J. Murphy. “But people also love books with Warren Buffett on them.”
Mr. Zarif, who said he was not related to Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said he himself had bought some shares in a petrochemical company, making a profit of about $400 in recent months. “Not bad for someone like me,” he said, laughing while pointing at his torn clothes.
Inside the exchange people stared at monitors showing various indexes, under a portrait of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that also had the words, “Be a supporter of the leader, so the country will be good.” Noticing an uptick in the shares of cement factories and petrochemical companies, most semi-state owned, two middle-class women carrying designer bags said they had come to start trading.
“I’m taking a bet,” said Shirin Askari of Tehran, who was ready to invest $1,200 she had saved. “But it might just work out, maybe this is the right moment to step in and hope for growth.”
The rise of the stock exchange also has to do with investors selling their gold and currency, said one trader, Mohammad Hassannejad. “It seems our currency will be stable for now, so those with money are coming here,” he said.
Mr. Zarif, standing outside next to his books, said he hoped good times were finally coming.
If it turned out differently, that would not be a real problem. “In Iran even in difficult times, some people are capable of making money,” he said.
Some experts on the economy cautioned that the euphoria could be short-lived. “It shows people are desperate for good news,” said Kevan Harris, a Princeton University sociologist who conducts research on Iran’s economy and travels regularly to the country. “Bad news can prick that bubble.”
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