Does Ahmadinejad Speak for Iran?

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Julie Jacobson / AP

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, Sept. 23 2008 at the United Nations.

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In your book, you talk about the important distinction between public and private lives in Iran. Is that more pronounced under an Islamic regime, and do you think Iranians long for more freedoms?

It is by definition more pronounced under a theocratic regime, which regulates public behavior. But Iranians have a long history of separating the public from the private. Part of what makes life in Iran a little more tolerable today is that Iranians know they can let their hair down in private. But yes, I do believe that there is longing for fewer restrictions on women, more latitude for men and women to mix socially without fear, and even more freedom of the press.

It is often said that the Iranian people have a fondness for Americans, despite their government's official stance. How true have you discovered that to be in your frequent travels to Iran, and do you think that the future of U.S.-Iranian relations could be rosier than we perceive?

It is very true. Even amongst the leadership, there is affection and some admiration for Americans and America. Of course, that ends at foreign policy. But in Iran, in contrast with much of the Arab world, people genuinely like America and openly say so. With the possibility of new leadership on both sides, there is no reason that the two countries could not have better relations.

Click here for a photoessay of Iran.

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