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Iran: Rouhani defends charm offensive, says more to come - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iranian president Hassan Rouhani smiles during an interview with Ann Curry from the US television network NBC in Tehran, in this picture taken September 18, 2013, and provided by the Iranian Presidency. (Reuters/President.ir/Handout via Reuters)

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani smiles during an interview with Ann Curry from the US television network NBC in Tehran, in this picture taken September 18, 2013, and provided by the Iranian Presidency. (Reuters)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—During a press conference on Wednesday, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani strongly defended his charm offensive at the UN, adding that he is set to undertake even greater initiatives in the coming months.

During the post-cabinet meeting briefing, Rouhani summarized his government’s foreign policy track record since he took office, outlining the significance of his election in redefining Iran’s approach towards the international community.

The unprecedented phone conversation that took place between the Iranian and US presidents on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly stunned many rival principalists in Iran, who heavily criticized Rouhani for weakening Tehran’s position.

Rouhani also said that the problems created over the past 8 years cannot be resolved in a matter of weeks and will certainly require more time.

Following Rouhani and Obama’s phone conversation last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjammin Netanyahu met with the US president on Monday and received reassurances that the US will not allow a nuclear Iran and that all options remain on the table.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had reacted angrily to Obama’s comments; however Rouhani’s statement on Wednesday demonstrated that Tehran is committed to following a constructive approach with the West.

Speaking following a cabinet meeting, Rouhani said that the Israeli government’s “anger” over Iran restoring its international stance and credibility was “understandable,” adding that “we should not pay attention to their dismay.”

“Iran has clarified its position on the holocaust and the world must know that the Iranian nation strive for peace and humanity,” Rouhani added.

Commenting on domestic criticism to his charm offensive at the UN, in particular towards Washington, Rouhani said: “Criticizing the government is allowed [in Iran] and we are proud to allow anyone to express protest in any tone, nevertheless we would prefer them to conduct their protest politely and within the rules of the game.”

Rouhani robustly defended his foreign policy initiatives at the UN, saying: “That was a small step; expect greater steps in the coming month”.

This statement will likely be read with great interest by foreign observers and officials as a reaffirmation of Rouhani’s intention to reach a solution on Iran’s nuclear program at the forthcoming P5+1 negotiation.

This statement could also indicate Rouhani’s plan to address other issues affecting Iran’s regional foreign policy. For now, Rouhani appears keen to re-brand Iranian foreign policy, distinguishing it from the previous approach followed by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In another surprising development, Rouhani engaged with a tweet by Jack Dorsey, chief executive and one of the founders of social network Twitter.

Dorsey tweeted: “Good evening, President. Are citizens of Iran able to read your tweets?”
A few hours later, Rouhani replied: Evening, @Jack. As I told @camanpour [Christian Amounpour of CCN], my efforts geared to ensure my people will comfortably be able to access all info globally as is their right.”

The Iranian president’s tweet was re-tweeted more than 1,800 times at the time this article went to press.
Twitter remains blocked in Iran although the Supreme Leader, president, and foreign minister have active tweeter accounts.