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Why Iranians like America again

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Starting in about 2005, Iranians' historic esteem for the US gave way to a deep ambivalence that is only now ending. President Bush's post-9/11 wars of liberation on both of Iran's borders rattled ordinary Iranians, and Washington's opposition to Iran's nuclear program added to their resentment. In early 2006, when I lived in Iran as a journalist, I had only to step outdoors to hear the complaints.

It was a time when Iranians of all ages and backgrounds united in their pique against the US, turning their backs on its traditions and culture. But on a recent trip to Iran, I found a shift in sentiment.

The most interesting aspect of the revival of warm feelings today is that the US has done so little to earn them. Instead, Iranians' renewed pro-American sentiments reflect the depth of their alienation from their own rulers. As a family friend put it: "It's a matter of being drawn to the opposite of what you can't stand."

I lived in Iran until last summer and experienced all the reasons why Mr. Ahmadinejad has replaced the US as Iranians' top object of vexation. Under his leadership, inflation has spiked at least 20 percent, according to nongovernment analysts – thanks to Ahmadinejad's expansionary fiscal policies, which inject vast amounts of cash into the economy.

Inflation has hit the real estate market particularly hard. Housing prices have surged by nearly 150 percent, according to real estate agents. For most Iranians, previously manageable rents have become tremendous burdens.

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