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.
    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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    Party's presumptive presidential nominee, her vice presidential pick deliver optimistic message in Florida as they campaign for first time together

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora