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World

Iranians Deeply Divided Over U.S. Presidential Candidates

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The U.S. relationship with Iran has been a big campaign issue for decades, and that has been especially true this week. You've probably heard about the $400 million cash payment the U.S. made to Iran back in January. It was a settlement for a decades-old legal claim, and it has been a big part of Donald Trump's speeches.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Four-hundred million dollars gets flown at night into Iran. I think it's so sad and so disgusting. And you also wonder about a government - who could approve a thing like that, where they take cash into a country and just hand it to them?

MCEVERS: We've been getting perspectives on the U.S. election from around the world. And today, we're going to hear from Iran. Ramin Mostaghim is a reporter with the L.A. Times based in the capital, Tehran. We talked to him by Skype. He says the view in Iran is split between reformers pushing for a closer relationship with the U.S. and the hardliners who still portray the U.S. as the Great Satan. Regardless, he says a lot of Iranians are following the election very closely.

REPORTER RAMIN MOSTAGHIM: Because for them, America is a superpower, which has a great impact in their destiny.

MCEVERS: Before this election, were people in Iran familiar with Donald Trump either because of his business or his TV shows?

MOSTAGHIM: No, he was unknown - totally unknown - because their TV shows is not seen on the satellite TV, and he was out of the blue.

MCEVERS: What do people think of him now?

MOSTAGHIM: Now they - I mean, it depends whom you are asking.

MCEVERS: Yeah.

MOSTAGHIM: The reformists, those who voted, they are worried. They're anticipating if, God forbid from their angle, Trump is in the office, White House, then they should expect the worst, means war, confrontation and also null-and-void nuclear deal and other issues like that. So for them it is a catastrophe. But for the hardliners who are seeking what they call an independence from international community, that is fantastic if Mr. Trump is in the office because provides the pretext to say, OK, we have tried the best, we have tried America. They have proved to be dishonest, unreliable, not good friend.

MCEVERS: And then there's Hillary Clinton. When she was secretary of state, she worked to increase sanctions against Iran. This, of course, was before the Iran nuclear deal. How do people view her?

MOSTAGHIM: OK, again, it depends whom you ask. The hardliners, in general, is - as proverbial saying in Farsi says, the yellow dog is brother of the yellow jackal.

MCEVERS: (Laughter) Please explain that. It's great.

MOSTAGHIM: (Laughter) It is - the hardliner says that Trump is the yellow dog and yellow dog is brother to the yellow jackal, which is Hillary Clinton. So they try to say that, OK, it's not a big deal if Trump is in the office or Hillary Clinton is in the office.

MCEVERS: What you mean by that is the hardliners say basically, Trump or Clinton, it doesn't matter. They're both the enemies of Iran.

MOSTAGHIM: Yes, because the enmity against America, hating America, is the cornerstone of the Islamic Republic ideology. So that's why that proverbial saying fits that America should remain, remain enemy. Hillary Clinton is popular among the middle class in Iran. She represents democracy, hope, future, opening of the society and further integration, gradual integrations of Iran into international community. And her husband is very popular. She is popular among the educated and middle class and upper middle class. As I was getting ready to talk to you, I talked to the butcher in my neighborhood, and he said that Hillary is not warmonger. Trump is warmonger. And we don't need war, so Hillary is the best if she's in the office.

MCEVERS: Ramin Mostaghim covers Iran for the L.A. Times. Thank you so much for your time today.

MOSTAGHIM: You're most welcome, pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.