On the ground in Iran

I've quoted the entire article here, but you should go see the picture.

Ramita Navai, Tehran Correspondent for The Times, was among thousands on the streets of the Iranian capital for annual anti-Israel rallies, at which the President continued his inflammatory rhetoric.

"It's a bit like a family day out, but with cursory outbreaks of flag burning. There are people sitting on picnic blankets, street-vendors and people selling balloons... there's a kind of carnival atmosphere.

"But I walked past one stand where people were writing messages on a flag to send to Palestine. There was a girl there, she can't have been older than 5, and she had just signed her name below a message reading 'Death to Israel, death to America.'

"The conservative hardliners have turned out in force, but it would be a mistake to think that all of Iran is on the streets baying for Israel's blood.

"The majority of ordinary Iranians don't really care about Israel - they have enough to worry about at home with a declining economy and high unemployment.

"Many of the people are wearing bibs or carrying banners which read 'Peaceful Nuclear Energy is Iran's Right.' That is certainly an issue which has united all of Iran - the destruction of Israel is not.

"Nevertheless, Iranians are really quite puzzled by the reaction to the President's comments. To them it's nothing that they don't hear at every Friday prayers. They are quite bemused about it all. Everyone knows that it's what President Ahmadinejad thinks.

"What's being debated here is whether he is just incredibly naiive and inexperienced in international diplomacy or whether this is a change towards a more confrontational approach in Iran's negotiating tactics.

"I have heard that he has just repeated his comments to the crowd, confirmed and repeated them. So it looks as though he is not backing down."

[Italics mine.]

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