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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid