As I disembarked from my flight at Tehran I recalled my previous visit to Iran in 2000, when Iranian immigration officials at Mehrabad Airport were rather frosty. Entering Iran on this occasion proved far more straightforward than that visit, as the immigration official handed back my passport with a smile and wished me a pleasant stay.
My passport control experience indicated that authorities wanted to foster a positive image of Iran among foreigners, trying to cast it as just another normal state. Such an image, however, dissipated almost as soon as I left the airport. Symptoms of discontent were plainly evident everywhere I looked, just as they were during my 2000 visit. Only this time, the atmosphere seemed grimmer. In 2000, popular anger seemed somewhat tempered by the hope that President Mohammad Khatami's reformist administration would make social and economic changes. During my return visit, after five years of political gridlock and no substantive change, hope had been replaced by deep cynicism.
To read the full story
Alex Vatanka is a political analyst based in London.