BY JORDAN BARTH
Acting Managing Editor
On Sept. 27, President Barack Obama revealed to the American public that he talked with newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, marking the first time leaders from the United States and Iran have directly communicated since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
All diplomatic messages have been transmitted through the Swiss delegation.
The U.S. and its allies have accused the Islamic Republic of seeking to covertly develop a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran says it is enriching uranium only for civilian energy purposes but restricts U.N. inspections.
For years, Obama said he is open to direct contact with Iran while also stressing that all options, including military strikes, were on the table to prevent Iran building atom bombs.
As first reported by NBC News, a senior administration official said that Obama began the conversation by congratulating Rouhani on his election victory, and noted the constructive statements that Rouhani has made since taking office. The majority of the call concerned nuclear sanctions.
The call ended with Rouhani telling Obama in English to “have a nice day” and Obama replying “thank you” in Farsi.
The event that left everybody in the diplomatic community talking was a meeting held the day before. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Secretary of State John Kerry held a one-on-one meeting. It was the first face-to-face meeting between two officials of such high ranking from these countries in more than 30 years.
The meeting was described as constructive and positive with plans to create a nuclear deal within three to six months.
Zarif is no stranger to the international stage. He was based in New York as Iran’s permanent representative for the U.N. from 2002 to 2007.
When returning home, supporters of Rouhani greeted him with chants of “Rouhani we thank you” and “Iran calls for moderation” as first reported by the student news agency ISNA.
However, about 100 conservative hardliners also came, shouting “Death to America,” a refrain usually chanted at domestic rallies since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iranians at home and abroad posted hundreds of messages on Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s Facebook page.
“You have made the people of Iran happy, especially the phone call with Obama,” said one of them.
The two leaders had a telling exchange over Twitter concerning the future of U.S.-Iranian relations.
“@BarackObama to @HassanRouhani If we can make progress on #nuclear file, other issues such as #Syria will certainly be positively affected,” said the president in a follow-up message.
“In regards to #nuclear issue, with political #will, there is a way to rapidly solve the matter,” responded Rouhani.
“@HassanRouhani to @BarackObama: I express my gratitude for your #hospitality and your phone call. Have a good day Mr President.”
Mustafa Khan, business administration major, is a dual U.S. and Saudi citizen.
“I don’t think this call will change anything,” Khan said. “If Iran wants to build the nuclear bomb I think they will because last time the call happened the shah was overthrown.”
He went on to say that increasing the number of sanctions on the country is irrelevant because Iran will learn how to manage their economy.
“So I think America should be easier on their sanctions, show Iran they’re willing to work with them and convince them the nuclear use should be used to produce clean energy,” Khan said. “Only time can tell us if this talk will work.”
Western leaders have expressed cautious optimism about Iran’s more moderate tone under Rouhani, whose recent comments have raised hopes that a deal could be struck over the Middle Eastern nation’s nuclear program.