TEHRAN, Iran – Prior to the Islamic revolution, Iran and America shared very good relations. The former Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had an army with modern hardware supplied by the U.S. There were direct flights between New York City and Tehran and the city was full of hotels run by major American chains.
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But the once-friendly relations between the two nations came to a screeching halt in 1979 when cleric-led radicals ousted the U.S.-backed shah and the subsequent Iran hostage crisis when 52 Americans were held in the U.S. embassy for 444 days.
These days, Iranians’ relations with America are somewhat schizophrenic – the government is stridently anti-American, but many Iranians are not.
That is the opposite of other countries in the region where governments receive large amounts of money and military hardware from the U.S., but whose people generally dislike America.
Tehran’s dentist to the stars
A popular dentist in an affluent part of Tehran represents the love-hate relationship many Iranians feel toward the U.S.
In his Park Avenue-style dental practice, the latest Newsweek, Time and Architectural Digest magazines are on offer in the waiting room. A large flat-screen TV sits on the wall, along with an expansive fish tank and a framed dentistry degree from New York University.
Iranians are consumers who love brand names – even when it comes to their dental care. When a friend of mine introduced me to the dentist, he told me he is the guy to go to if I wanted to brag about where I get my teeth cleaned. He is, in essence, Tehran’s equivalent of a Beverly Hills “dentist to the stars.”
A large part of his reputation comes not just from the fact that he has all the latest, modern dentistry equipment, but that he was trained in the U.S. and offers Western-style service. He was educated in dentistry at NYU and lived, worked and studied from the East Coast to West Coast.
Coffee mugs bearing pictures of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs are on sale as a man works on a MacBook at a shop in northern Tehran on Jan.19, 2012. Despite the fact that Apple observes a U.S. embargo that restricts the sale of their goods in Iran, their products are wildly popular there.
Sporting fashionable glasses, a crisp blue button-down shirt and tie, the dentist, who is in his mid-40s, agreed to speak with me on the condition of anonymity.
“I am who I am because of my education in the States,” said the dentist. “I am very American, but my view on U.S. politics is very different.”