When it came to the first conversation between American and Iranian presidents since 1979, Hassan Rouhani again had the upper hand on President Obama.
Obama called a press conference this afternoon to make the bold announcement, but Rouhani — who has become an avid social media user even as his people are restricted from using such sites — scooped the American president on his Twitter account.
“In a phone conversation b/w #Iranian & #US Presidents just now: @HassanRouhani: ‘Have a Nice Day!’ @BarackObama: ‘Thank you. Khodahafez,’” Rouhani tweeted. “In phone convo, President #Rouhani and President @BarackObama expressed their mutual political #will to rapidly solve the #nuclear issue.”
Then: “@HassanRouhani to @BarackObama: I express my gratitude for your #hospitality and your phone call. Have a good day Mr President.”
That made clear it was Obama who picked up the phone, even as Rouhani turned down a request earlier in the week to meet with Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Senior administration officials brushed off that denied meeting as “too complicated for Iranians to do at this point.”
Obama was expected to remark on the continuing resolution passed by the Senate today, but began his remarks with the Iran announcement.
“Just now, I spoke on the phone with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The two of us discussed our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. I reiterated to President Rouhani what I said in New York. While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution,” Obama said.
“…Going forward, President Rouhani and I have directed our teams to continue working expeditiously in cooperation with the P-5-plus-1 to pursue an agreement. And throughout this process, we’ll stay in close touch with our friends and allies in the region, including Israel.”
Obama was determined to cement a historical marker for himself. “The very fact that this was the first communications between an American and Iranian president since 1979 underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history,” he said. “I do believe that there is a basis for a resolution. Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. President Rouhani has indicated that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons.”
“…A path to a meaningful agreement will be difficult. And at this point, both sides have significant concerns that will have to be overcome. But I believe we’ve got a responsibility to pursue diplomacy, and that we have a unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in Tehran. I also communicated to President Rouhani my deep respect for the Iranian people.”
A senior administration official said in a late afternoon conference call with reporters that the call was about 15 minutes long and “Obama opened by congratulating President Rouhani on his election as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“He noted the history of mistrust between our two nations, but also noted the constructive statements that President Rouhani had made since his election, including over the last several days in New York,” the official said.
Rouhani took a whirlwind turn through the Big Apple during the General Assembly this week, sitting down with think tanks and news outlets to gush a supposedly reformist message and claim Iran has no designs on nuclear weapons.
CNN even aired an interview in which the network claimed that the new president admitted that the Holocaust happened.
“I have said before that I am not a historian. And that when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the holocaust it is the historians that should reflect on it. But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity including the crime the Nazis created towards the Jews is reprehensible and condemnable,” the network’s translator said Rouhani said. “Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn. The taking of human life is contemptible. It makes no difference whether that life is Jewish life, Christian, or Muslim. For us it is the same. The taking of human life is something our religion rejects. But this does not mean that on the other hand you can say Nazis committed crimes against a group now therefore they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it. This, too, is an act that should be condemned. There should be an even-handed discussion.”
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency cried foul at the airbrushed translation and the Wall Street Journal verified the Persian version: “I have said before that I am not a historian and historians should specify, state and explain the aspects of historical events, but generally we fully condemn any kind of crime committed against humanity throughout the history, including the crime committed by the Nazis both against the Jews and non-Jews, the same way that if today any crime is committed against any nation or any religion or any people or any belief, we condemn that crime and genocide. Therefore, what the Nazis did is condemned, (but) the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers, I am not a history scholar.”