Revolutionary Guards chief decries Rouhani’s talk with Obama

Mohammad Ali Jafari says Iranian president adopted ‘mighty’ stances at UN, but should wait for new US policy before dialogue

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, attends a press conference in Tehran in 2012. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, attends a press conference in Tehran in 2012. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps praised President Hasan Rouhani on Monday for his address at the UN General Assembly in New York last week, but criticized his willingness to speak with US President Barack Obama.

“The honorable president adopted mighty and appropriate stances during this trip, particularly in his address to the United Nations General Assembly,” General Mohammad Ali Jafari told Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.

Rouhani made his debut address at the UNGA last Tuesday. He offered “transparency” on Iran’s nuclear program, but firmly reserved the right to retain what he termed “peaceful” uranium enrichment.

Jafari also called on the United States to change its stance toward the Islamic Republic.

“Given the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran demonstrated its goodwill, especially by the stances and remarks made in the 68th session of the United Nations (General Assembly),” he said, “now it is America’s turn to build trust with practical measures and prove its sincerity in practice.”

Jafari also expressed some disapproval of Rouhani, arguing that instead of speaking by telephone with Obama, he should have waited for concrete changes in American policy.

The Friday phone call between the two leaders capped a week of seismic alterations in the relationship, revolving around Rouhani’s participation in the annual UN meeting of world leaders. The night before the two leaders spoke, US and European diplomats had hailed a “very significant shift” in Iran’s attitude and tone in the first talks on the nuclear standoff since April.

The last direct conversation between leaders of the two countries was in 1979 before the Iranian Revolution toppled the pro-US shah and brought Islamic militants to power. Obama said the long break “underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history.”

In another sign of building momentum, both sides agreed to fast-track negotiations and hold a substantive round of talks on October 15-16 in Geneva. Iran, hoping to get relief from punishing international sanctions as fast as possible, said it hoped a resolution could be reached within a year.

Not all Iranians approved of Rouhani’s charm offensive. Protesters in Tehran threw shoes, eggs and stones at Rouhani’s car last Saturday as he returned from the five-day trip to New York. Several dozen hardline Islamists chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” as his motorcade drew away. Others attempted to obstruct the road by praying on the pavement, The New York Times reported.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report. 

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