All I can tell you is, according to people who live there now and/or have families who live there now, what's changed is the gov't cracking down and the people rebelling more. That's why we're seeing more strikes and demonstrations. And more arrests and more hangings.
Last year was the election. I don't know what month your friend was there, but I can imagine things were different at that time than even 6 months prior.
I don't doubt your friend had an unpleasant experience compared to when he was last there, but to think that the country is "massively radicalized with people who are all like the insurgents we fight in Iraq" goes against all the reports I've seen, heard and read from others who have been there.
Well he went visiting people throughout Iran that was family and as he traveled he felt the flavor of the country was it had become far more radical.
His own family in Iran told him that things got far worse.
He had been there many times before his last visit.
I think it says there is a major shift in that country whey he walks around the citizens there and says we will be at war within a year or so.