News / Middle East

Iran's Rouhani Takes Conciliatory Stance

Iran's New President Strikes More Conciliatory Stancei
August 06, 2013 8:06 PM
Iran's newly sworn-in president swept to victory in the country's June elections by offering a new approach. Now that Hassan Rouhani has been sworn in, he is making some promises, including about reviving nuclear negotiations with the West. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
VIDEO: Wwept to victory in June elections by offering a new approach, Hassan Rouhani is now making some big promises, including revival of nuclear negotiations with the West.
Iran's newly sworn-in president swept to victory in the country's June elections by offering a new approach.

Now that Hassan Rouhani has been sworn in, he is making some promises, including about reviving nuclear negotiations with the West.

In his first news conference, Iran's Rouhani set a softer tone than his predecessor.

"We observe carefully all actions taken by the U.S. government. If they take constructive and meaningful steps, the Iranian government certainly will show a similar response," he said.

Rouhani also said Iran is ready for "serious and substantive" negotiations on its nuclear program, expressing optimism a solution can be reached.

The United States and other Western nations suspect Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons. The White House has said repeatedly, that the burden is on Tehran to prove its nuclear program is peaceful.

"Should it be willing to do that in a verifiable way, there's an opportunity for Iran to reenter the international community, to ease the burden of it's isolation," said White House Spokesman Jay Carney.

The issue is crucial for Iran. The international community has hit the country with round after round of sanctions over its nuclear program, crippling its economy.

Former Ambassador James Jeffrey, with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said it is something the new Iranian government cannot ignore.

“The public overwhelmingly want these sanctions to end. They clearly are tired of the economic straits that Iran finds itself in, and any government, including an Islamic government, is going to feel pressure to respond to that,” said Jeffrey.

Already, some of Rouhani's appointments may indicate how serious he is about that response, starting with Javad Zarif for foreign minister. Zarif is Iran's former ambassador to the United Nations. He is U.S. educated, well known to Western diplomats, and not afraid to sound tough.

"The people and the government  the Islamic Republic of Iran  are determined to exercise their inalienable right to nuclear technology," said Zariff.

He is also willing, however, to sound conciliatory.

"Iran is prepared for a negotiated solution," said Zariff.

As for how much that means, Matthew Duss of the Center for American Progress is unsure.

"Right now we're still very much in the stage of  speech-making and slogans,"said Duss. I think very soon we'll have an opportunity to test whether Rouhani is able to make good on some of his promises."

Rouhani swept to victory by winning over reform-minded voters. Now it seems he has made an opening to the West. But any changes will need the approval of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who likely will be looking over Rouhani's shoulder every step of the way.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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Comment Sorting
by: Ella Jones from: Kings Point, NY
August 07, 2013 2:36 PM
Not only does Rouhani still support Assad, he also has a long standing history of running in the Ayatollah's inner circles and he's involved in Iran's production of nukes! This man is no moderate.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 07, 2013 7:27 AM
Matthew Duss rightly summarized it all. It's after the talks when the actions begin that we shall know what Rouhani is up to. It is not about the cream of his cabinet, after all we have seen many extremist Islamists who schooled in the west only to turn back with extreme hatred for the west. While we watch and hope that Rouhani and his ministers will bring about the desired change - even though some of his ministers like Jawad Zarif are already toeing a hardline approach and talking tough about the determination of Iran to its right to nuclear power - Rouhani can start by showing how much he's prepared to do what he promises by opening up the domestic front in Iran so that people can start exercising their freedoms. Right now there are many political prisoners and those who cannot express themselves as free citizens because they belong to religious minorities or have secular views.

Before September when Russia has fixed the beginning of nuclear negotiation, Rouhani can make speeches to show that people are now free in their own country Iran, free political and religious prisoners and declare amnesty for those held under house arrest for their moderate views. We should not wait until nuclear negotiations start to see how much democracy Rouhani will introduce in the country. If all he has to show for his touted change is nuclear negotiation, then there is much to be desired, and the bottle neck has not been removed by his election victory. Which will then be seen as a bad arrangement, window dressing and playing to the gallery.

by: MVolze from: Washington D.C.
August 06, 2013 10:41 PM
I think this is a great article. However, it's just so hard to believe that Rouhani is serious when Iran continues to enrich plutonium far past civilian levels as they inch towards actual nuclear weapons. If they gave up weaponization it'd be easier to swallow their attempts at "democracy"
In Response

by: Joe Clark from: Washington D.C.
August 07, 2013 4:04 PM
This is important to consider all the nuclear stuff, but don't forget that this is the same guy who was a member of the Ayatollah's inner circle back in the 70s. That's not moderation in any form.
In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 07, 2013 1:48 PM
Alex (New York), we are no longer talking about Iran's nuclear capability. Certainly by now, all the time they have bought in the past in the name of negotiation is enough to make whatever bomb/nuclear warhead they want. How long does it take to enrich uranium to the highest level when the knowledge and resources are there? Has Iran not had more than enough time? Even the delay to September, isn't it another delay tactic to finalize the nuclear warhead formation? What has Rouhani promised? Only negotiation. Iran believes Israel has nuke secretly and so wants to get its own secretly too. By now Iran already has nuke. Q.E.D.
In Response

by: Alex from: New York
August 07, 2013 11:22 AM
For whatever the reason is, Most western media 1- forget that theory of 'enrich and negotiate" was fabricated by Rouhani. 2- They keep ( or like) to forget that Rouhani is Ahmadinejad in a softer tune. The essence is that mullahs want to have a bomb and negotiation is only a time buying tactic.

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