I recently returned from leading my third delegation of YPO-WPO CEO business leaders to Iran. The changes over the past three years have been dramatic. We were provided more access this year than ever before, including being the first American group since the Iranian Revolution/ Hostage Crisis to meet with an Iranian Ministry Official and to be allowed to re-enter the former American Embassy. In addition to Iranian and international government officials, we met with a Grand Ayatollah, top business leaders, young entrepreneurs, students, and artists.
Americans as people are welcomed and loved
70% of population is under age 35, having been born after the Revolution
60% of university graduates are women
Lack of anti-Semitism, as distinguished from anti-Israel sentiment
Jews and Christians allowed to import alcohol in an otherwise dry country
Religious leaders talking about "death to America is in the past" and relations with Israel could "become more positive" if there is resolution on the Palestinian issue
Dynamic tech startup environment. We met with founders of Iranian versions of Kayak, Groupon, eBay, and Amazon
A "workaround economy" impacted by restrictions yet with 6.5 million iPhones (officially blocked under sanctions) and half the population connect to 3/4 G service.
15 million Facebook users in a country where Facebook is officially banned
There has been tremendous media attention about our trip as it comes at such a critical time in American-Iranian relations. On return, several of us have been briefing the US Senate Foreign Relations and Banking Committees and senior State Department officials. Through sharing our experiences, we hope to create a more nuanced understanding of this very important geopolitical player that is generally considered difficult to access and understood only as an adversary in the West.