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Iranians in So Cal see new phase in US-Iran relations

A man sits outside a cafe beneath where a sign which reads
A man sits outside a cafe beneath where a sign which reads "Persian Square" overlooks a section Westwood Blvd. in Los Angeles, California, on March 15, 2012. The area is a center for the area's large Iranian community.

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It's been a busy week for Iran and US relations. The notoriously tense relationship has taken the first steps in a long-awaited nuclear deal. The US has lifted sanctions, allowing Iran to rejoin the global oil market. And both countries released prisoners, capping a long and secretive negotiation.

It's a significant moment, said Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution and an Iran expert.

"We're at an unprecedented situation in terms of some ability to get business done with the Iranian government," said Maloney, author of "Iran's Political Economy Since the Revolution."

But there are still roadblocks ahead, she said.

"We're still not in a position to have full diplomatic relations," she said.

The changes are being watched closely by Iranians in Southern California, said Siamak Kalhor, host of KIRN 670 am, Radio Iran LA. The region is home to the largest community of Iranians outside Iran, estimates putting the population close to half a million. Some called into the radio program over the weekend to express a wide range of views, he said.

"Our listeners are upbeat about everything that has been going on," said Kalhor. "It shows the victory of diplomacy, not force, not pressure and bluster."

Kalhor said there are still many questions ahead, as sanctions lift and there are more opportunities for trade, travel and business.

One of the biggest is who will ultimately benefit: "Is this really going to help the people of Iran or the government of Iran?" said Kalhor.