News / Middle East

Rouhani's Obama Call Stirs Hardline Suspicions

Supporters of moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani celebrate his victory in Iran's presidential election, Tehran, June 15, 2013.
Supporters of moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani celebrate his victory in Iran's presidential election, Tehran, June 15, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's historic phone call with U.S. President Barack Obama is likely to provoke resistance from powerful hardliners in the Islamic Republic who have built their support on enmity with the West.
 
The first thing Rouhani did on his return to Tehran at the weekend was to state that he had acted within guidelines set by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei when he took part in the highest-level contact between Iran and the United States in three decades.
 
The brief mobile phone conversation led many to speculate that since the election of the moderate Rouhani relations between Washington and Tehran, in the deep freeze since the U.S. embassy hostage crisis, may be about to improve.
 
Rouhani's invocation of Khamenei, the man at the top of Iran's complex political system, looked like a bid to ward off a backlash from hardline power centers and their supporters, some of whom were already lying in wait to throw eggs at the president's motorcade.
 
The demonstrators' chants of “Death to America” were, however, likely to be only the opening shots of a campaign against Rouhani by a conservative political and military establishment opposed to the West in general and to the United States and Israel in particular.
 
Such is the mistrust between Iran and the United States that a big sticking point of negotiations over Tehran's disputed nuclear program has been who should make the first move.
 
Iran has insisted the United States and the European Union should ease sanctions before it makes any concessions over enriching uranium, while Western powers have argued the reverse.
 
For Iranian hardliners, Rouhani's conversation with Obama was a step too far and, they argue, Washington must now take concrete steps to dispel the distrust.
 
“The Americans should prove their goodwill by taking practical steps [such as] ending enmity with the Iranian nation and lifting sanctions,” a senior member of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, said on the assembly's website on Sunday.
 
The head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, which are backed up by a vast industrial and military complex accountable only to the leader, at first complimented Rouhani on his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, in which he said Tehran was prepared to engage in “time-bound and results-oriented” nuclear talks, but then issued a coded warning:
 
“It was better that no time was given for a face-to-face meeting with Obama and he should have turned down a phone conversation until after the American government has shown its sincerity,” Mohammad Ali Jafari, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), told Tasnim news agency.
 
'Macho and wrong'
 
It is perhaps not surprising that the IRGC, a force grown mighty on a mission to protect the Islamic Republic from its enemies, both internal and external, should balk at mending ties with the greatest of Iran's foes, the United States.
 
But Jafari's remark seemed to fly in the face of Rouhani's own coded message to the Guards only two weeks before.
 
“The IRGC is above and beyond political currents, not beside them or within them,” the president had told the Guards. “The IRGC has a higher status, which is that of the whole nation.”
 
In other words, he was telling them to stay out of politics.
 
The public comments of ministers, politicians and military commanders represent only a pale reflection of what is likely to be an intense debate within the largely opaque corridors of Iranian power, where policy is often arrived at by laboriously thrashing out a consensus, with Khamenei having the final word.
 
Rouhani, who took office in August, had the supreme leader's approval for his move to build bridges with Washington and gain some relief from sanctions that have fuelled inflation of more than 40 percent and led to a sharp fall in the value of the rial.
 
But by taking Obama's last minute phone call as he headed for the airport in New York, Rouhani may have over-stepped his remit from the ever cautious and deeply anti-Western Khamenei, according to some analysts.
 
“I think that Jafari's comments underscore the unscripted, improvised nature of Rouhani's conversation with Obama,” said Dr. Siavush Randjbar-Daemi, lecturer at Britain's University of Manchester. “It also gives some credence to Rouhani's claim that the Obama call was really an improvised initiative.”
 
“Regarding Jafari, I think he too was taken aback by the speed with which events moved last week in New York, and sought to try to bring about a more moderate pace in the rapprochement process between Iran and the United States,” he said.
 
With two weeks to go before the next round of nuclear negotiations in Geneva between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany, the debate within Iran appears to be intensifying.
 
“The Revolutionary Guards gave public support to Rouhani's trip to New York, but made clear that he has to negotiate from a position of strength,” said Scott Lucas, an Iran expert and co-founder of EA Worldview which monitors Iranian media.
 
“Jafari's comments go further. This is a challenge for Rouhani to deliver on actual changes of U.S. behavior. 'Show us the progress', he's saying. He's testing Rouhani to see whether he can get some move forward from the U.S.,” he said.
 
More strident comments by Rouhani's foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday appeared to show that Rouhani's government may be getting the message.
 
“President Obama's presumption that Iran is negotiating because of his illegal threats and sanctions is disrespectful of a nation, macho and wrong,” he wrote on Twitter.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
October 02, 2013 1:23 PM
It's all a ruse. Nobody should take any of this seriously. What is presented here is a script from Hollywood being acted out to the public. For sure Mr. Obama is weighing opinions right now what the home front says about it, what the world is saying, and what is the feeling on the streets of Tehran. If not because the press in USA has decided that Obama can do no wrong, it would have been awash with criticism from Americans. So far the only criticism has come from Netanyahu of Israel - as if he is alone in his line of thinking. But we know the truth - American press is pro-Obama and will not let the public know what he's doing unless they are good enough to sell him as a good president. That is wrong.

In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
October 02, 2013 2:07 PM
Is this all you can take from the contribution? Why not ask your president to represent America and be more aggressive with his pursuit of American policies rather than make you in the press do extra work to protect him? The press should expose rather than condone the government errors.


by: Dr. Somia Bahruree from: Iran
October 02, 2013 6:15 AM
The Iranian people are being held hostage by this revolting Islamic regime. we used to be so happy... until the Islamic Mullahs took over, since 1979 we had nothing but oppression and misery - we are ready for a revolution


by: Bill Stenwick from: Auburn, CA
October 01, 2013 6:21 PM
"War is deceit" was the position of Mohammad himself. As far as I am concerned, everything Rouhani says is Taqiyah till he proves it otherwise.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid