Three Takeaways From the Obama-Rouhani Phone Call

  • Share
  • Read Later
Pete Souza / The White House / Reuters

President Barack Obama talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a phone call in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on Sept. 27, 2013

Their possible handshake in New York didn’t work out. But Barack Obama and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani made up for it today with a phone call that amounted to the first direct contact between an American president and an Iranian leader since 1979.

President Obama confirmed the call during an appearance in the White House press briefing room today. Soon after, a senior administration official explained that Rouhani—who had declined Obama’s invitation to shake hands at the United Nations this week—had invited the call. “We learned earlier today from the Iranians that President Rouhani wanted to speak with President Obama on the phone before he left New York,” a senior administration official said this afternoon.

The call was only a symbolic step, but still a very important development in the showdown between Washington and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program. Here are three reasons why:

1. Iran’s hard-liners must have allowed it. It’s not entirely clear why Rouhani, after weeks of sending warm signals and even saying he was open to meeting Obama, declined to do so Monday at the U.N. The White House implied that Iranian domestic politics wouldn’t allow it—perhaps evidenced by an Iranian newspaper’s disgust that “the clean hand of our president would for moments be in the bloody clench.” Hard liners quashed a near-meeting between Bill Clinton and the reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami at the U.N. in 2000, and it looked as though the same might have happened here. But if that was the case, Rouhani managed to win himself some more diplomatic leeway. That bodes well for the prospect that he can offer substantive concessions in any negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. It will be impossible for Rouhani to clinch a deal without the approval of Iran’s conservative political factions.

2. Rouhani did the smart—and maybe cynical—thing. Rouhani’s goal is an end to the U.N.-imposed economic sanctions slowly strangling Iran’s economy. One way he can achieve that is by halting or limiting his country’s nuclear program. Even if he’s just playing games and is not actually willing to do that, however, he might still divide the pro-sanctions coalition—say, by peeling off Russia or China—in hopes of getting the penalties eased without making big concessions. This is what the Israelis, among others, fear he’s up to. His prospects of achieving that depend on appearing open-minded, willing to talk, and the victim of unfair American pressure. By declining to meet with Obama, Rouhani had fanned the suspicions that his outreach is little more than a PR campaign with no substance behind it. Today’s phone call makes it look more serious, making it either a triumph of diplomacy—or a cleverly cynical ruse.

3. Diplomacy just got easier for Obama. Obama, too, faces domestic political pressure—namely the charge that he’s being hoodwinked by a Rouhani charm offensive designed to buy more time for the nuclear program. When Rouhani declined to meet, those charges seemed more credible. But Rouhani’s invitation to chat today—along with a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s foreign minister in New York yesterday—gives Obama something to show impatient members of Congress and allies in Israel who are insisting that any diplomatic solution has to come quickly.

Washington and Tehran are still a long way from a deal. The centrifuges spin away. And it remains unclear what Hasan Rouhani’s true intentions are. But today’s phone call suggests we’re closer to the beginning of this story than the end.

67 comments
dscrowley713
dscrowley713

Obama and company are being played, it is okay to talk but one must be very cynical and suspicious in all things regarding Iran.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

How refreshing to have a president actually speak to people instead of threatening them. Under how much better of the country would have been if the previous nitwit in office had adopted a similar policy.

RamondeJsPolank
RamondeJsPolank

SANTIAGO,DR.—Comunication means shorter distance to target those problems which seems to  divide us. Leadership is a matter of intelligence and humanism.[US]President Barck Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have broken the iceberg as some of our friends would like to say. Long time since the Revolution in 1979 when a more radical political party took over the government. Main subject won’t be difficult to address any longer allowing sincere friendship to grow between the two  leaders. Most important talk based on mutual trust must start with the Nuclear Proliferation and the Sanctions on priority agenda upon further negotiations.

arvay
arvay

There is already an unbridgeable gap between the US and israel on Iran.

Netanyahu demands a total end to Iran's nuclear program, destruction of most of its refined uranium -- eliminating its ability to ever construct a nuclear weapon. Patently ridiculous.  Israel wants to make an agreement impossible, because the real purpose of all the fuss is to punish Iran for it's ant-Israeli stance. 

The  US position is to oppose and threaten with attack any effort to make a deploy a nuclear weapon. Often lost in the noise is the fact that Iran has no program to weaponize a nuclear weapon -- the very formidable task of shrinking it to a size to fit on a ballistic missile. The CIA and the Mossad agree, and have said so publicly, that Iran has no nuclear weapons program.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/mossad-cia-agree-iran-has-yet-to-decide-to-build-nuclear-weapon-1.419300

The American people reject war. Israel wants one, as long as the Americans fight it. 

smehgol
smehgol

As a signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty, Iran accepts continuing IAEA inspection and has an internationally recognized right to develop and implement nuclear technology. Having rejected both IAEA inspection and the NPT, Israel has no such right. Yet the Jewish State has hundreds of nukes and  
openly threatens Iran, actually campaigns for war against Iran. Israel, not Iran, is the warmonger. Resolution lies with lifting all sanctions and compensating Iran for damages from the $$$ billions we will no longer be giving the Jewish state. American foreign policy must again serve American interests, not the Jewish state's paranoid pursuit of invulnerability, territorial conquest and racist empire in and beyond the Mideast.

SheinAriely
SheinAriely

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me !

Rouhani is famous for his ability to talk softly and build confidence and buying time for the centrifuges to process nuclear material.

Rouhani has a Ph.D. degree in Constitutional Law on flexibility.
He is an expert of preplanned diversion.

Acting as Iran chief negotiator with EU states starting 2003 he succeeded to prevent Iran's case from being reported to the UN Security Council, buying time for Iran complete its nuclear fuel cycle and took groundbreaking steps in Nuclear development.

To buy the precious time he used diversion methods the purpose of confidence building, certain parts of Iran's nuclear activities were voluntarily suspended at several junctures.
******

Obama, the number 1 in USA politics should spoke only
with the highest state authority in Iran , the Supreme Leader. According to Iranian constitution the president Rouhani is number 7 in Iranian hierarchy.

perhapshey
perhapshey

你们美国真不老实!!!!

HazeAndDrizzle
HazeAndDrizzle

Obama is creep because it didn't invade Syria. Obama is a creep because he threatened to invade Syria. Obama is a creep because he brought health insurance to millions. Obama is a creep because he forced people to deal with insurance companies. Obama is a creep because he is a socialist. Obama is a creep because he makes profits for insurance companies.


Now Obama is a creep because he talk to Iranians. Obama is a creep because he threatens military action against Iranian.


I think I get how to be a Tea Pot Repub now. Boy it is hard work.

Yoshi
Yoshi

Please, Mr. President, don't botch this.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

If this keeps up maybe Obama can negotiate a settlement between Jimmy Kimmel and Kanye West.

Catoi
Catoi

"Their possible handshake in New York didn’t work out."

Wow.  What colorful, vivid prose!  Talk about a roll-over-and-scratch-my-belly media.  Most observers described Rouhani's refusal as a humiliating "snub" of Obama.  But not Time, oh no.  We can't possibly imply that Obama was snubbed or embarrassed.  It just "didn't work out."  You see, it might have been Obama's fault, or Rouhani's, we're not sure.  These are busy men!  Their schedules just didn't mesh.  That's all, nothing to see here.  Squirrel!


PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

This is an exciting development. We've been at odds with Iran for more than 30 years, and Iran is a central player in the Middle East. A breakthrough would be huge.

And this is exactly what diplomacy is for. They want sanctions eased -- hey, look, they DO work! -- and we want to make sure they don't get The Bomb. If we can arrange a verifiable trade-off, then we could normalize relations. Having normal relations means having more cultural and political influence, and a democratic Iran down the road isn't really hard to envision. The Iranian people aren't our enemy -- in fact, they're among the most pro-American people in the Middle East -- so time is on our side. The mullahs can't hold power forever against the wishes of their own people, and the sooner we have normal relations the sooner popular pressure will count. 

That's a lot of "ifs," of course. But it's more possibility than we've had in 30 years. This should be a central issue for the Administration and the country.


Of course, the media will continue to follow the ongoing temper tantrum in the House of Representatives. Those obnoxious children in the Tea Party may throw the whole table over, since they're losing the game.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@SheinAriely You hit right on the nail. Obama is being laughed at all over the Middle east and Russia, he has become a joke. a true embarrassment to the united states.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@HazeAndDrizzle You forgot he is a Muslim racist and gets no respect from most of the world, do some real research not NBC data. And I am not a republican/tea party guy, nor am I a bleeding heart liberal democrat , I am a independent who does not vote along any party lines I leave that to followers, you know like you and the rest of the bleeding hearts.

jsfox
jsfox

Most observers? Please link to these "most observers." I shudder to think who you consider most.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@PerryWhite1 I would like to hear from Rouhani and his side to this alleged call. For all we know to save some face he get the white house photographer to show him on the phone, he could have been talking to his brother malik in Kenya or to Louis Farrakan for all we know. You trust the Muslim not me or anyone with brains. He may have tried call him does not mean it was connected either.

dectra
dectra

@Openminded1 @SheinAriely  

For someone who claims to be 'open minded' you appear to be nothing of the sort. 

God forbid the two countries begin a dialog.....it will take away the NeoCons reason for the next war if we begin to bridge our differences.....

Openminded1
Openminded1

@HazeAndDrizzle @Catoi I do not know about so called tea pots , but speaking just for me I would never want a pansy ass bleeding heart liberal to one of me. they do not have the brains or balls if they are anything like you. 

Openminded1
Openminded1

@HazeAndDrizzle @Catoi see mine ass wipe then you will get the true picture that all you bleeding hearts are the same sissy and followers. Remember if you are old enough to Charles Manson was a registered democrat as was your buddy OJ and if he gets out and would be able to run if Obama pardons him he wants to run for the calf Gov race first chance he gets and I am sure the followers of the party will vote for him just to keep it along the party lines. You guys are so f-ing dumb.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@jsfox Ah the bleeding heart speaks again to the other bleeding heart liberals, who will vote for anyone in there party. You do know Charlie Manson was a die hard democrat in his early years pre-murderer times.

dectra
dectra

@Openminded1

"alleged call"

Yes, by all means, let's deny it ever happened, right?

TimesOfToday
TimesOfToday

@Openminded1 @PerryWhite1 Rouhani twitted bout this before White House released this photo. The call did happen. If you are that racist to not trust "The Muslims", I guess that's your problem. After all, there are 1.4 billion Muslims in the World.


Openminded1
Openminded1

@dectra @Openminded1 @SheinAriely You really are stupid , it not just that you are a bleeding heart liberal, you are real stupid on top of that. My site name is meant to be Ironic dummy. You are out of my league lady move on to something more your speed like watching and answering TMZ there fun and right up your ally.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@dectra @Openminded1 @perhapshey You really are a bleeding heart moron, look at the avatar name dummy, who ever it is speaks english. Not everyone speaks dumb either but look at you you get an A in that class teacher of nothing.

dectra
dectra

"Openminded" should change her name to "hate filled."

Openminded1
Openminded1

@Reefman @Openminded1 @HazeAndDrizzle If you are a muslim you are a liar , because muslims want to rule the world where ever they are and the kill to do it. muslim message is murder of women and children. i know Obama is a muslim and what is wrong he lied to American people and can not be trusted, no muslim can.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@dectra @Openminded1 You are not only a english teacher I see, now you are a holy roller. How the f-uk would you know what Jesus would be proud of moron you have breakfast with him this morning. next time you do tell him Hi for me, he missed that last golf game with me. You dumb ass.

dectra
dectra

@Openminded1  

Nice display of Christian Hatred....Jesus would be so proud of you.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@dectra @Openminded1 Another English major, or wanna be teacher, school is out moron this is not grammar school it is a site that people post on now get graded for there punctuation. when you type 125 words a minute dummy then speak to me about grammer.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@outsider @Openminded1 @jsfox Hey dummy with the stupid avatar, you are now talking for the people who share my views, they all call you on your secret phone line did they. And why am I a racist? I would like to here that answer.

outsider
outsider

@Openminded1 @jsfox  

Ah, the racist rat pig speaks again. 

Go back to your hole; even the people who share your views don't want you speaking for them. A$shole. 

Openminded1
Openminded1

@RamonRoman @Openminded1 @jsfox Caps you are losing it RR and what does Hitler and  catholic have anything to what I have said and what is non-sense, Obama being a muslim ,he is. What is nonsense moron is Obama making an ass out of himself calling the Iranian president in his car on the way to the airport after the Iranian shunned him at the U.N. So he scrambles knowing he going to be criticised by the media and calls him to safe face, surprising the Iranian and making shore the world hears about it. Was a fools move and once again weak.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@jsfox No more like the guy he always has been a say it like it is real researcher  who gets the facts not the bs Rhetoric of the PC moron bs beltway crap. The media today kisses the ass of white house because they do not want to be banned at the white house.

Yoshi
Yoshi

. @jsfox My Lai. (For instance).

Let's hear a story by you.

jsfox
jsfox

Sy Hirsch seriously? Please find someone who is not a bitter, slightly senile conspiracy theorist. Sy gas falling a long way since his Pulitzer Prize days.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@jsfox I see no more comments about tin foil ass wipe, you looked it upa nd found out they did hack into the navys computers.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@PerryWhite1 @Openminded1 @TimesOfToday Once again cartoon man, you have not got a clue. Rouhani shunned BO at the U.N>. When he was on is way to the airport Obama calls him and they talk. That was Obama trying to save face after the media blasted the info that the Iranian walked away from a face to face. You libs are so dumb. As for my life ,you wish you could afford it, I am way out of your league. the day you can afford wear I live what i drive , were I vacation, and the places i eat and how I dress, you would have to have won the lottery and you are not that lucky moron.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@Openminded1 @TimesOfToday @PerryWhite1 It must be so sad to be you, Openminded1. The president does something presidential, and instantly the bile starts rising and rising and risin in you until it explodes in gibbering fury. What a pathetic existence.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@RamonRoman @Openminded1 @MrObvious @TimesOfToday @PerryWhite1 Well I see you have the skin for a big mouth, I understand you are insecure around real men and you are a wimp hiding behind a computer who thinks the liberal way is the only way and that Obama is the second coming, but as you like to say it is all blah blah blah. And by the way weak man, I have never said I was the only man, just the only one of the same 4 morons on here that follow the bleeding heart liberal trail no matter who runs for the office, because in your real closed minds you dummys will never admit that sometimes another party may be right. sorry excuse for men.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@Openminded1 @MrObvious @TimesOfToday @PerryWhite1 And blah, blah, blah, and the stupid libs, and blah, blah, blah, and peace, who the hell wants peace? and blah, blah, blah, you see I am retired and black, blah, blah, blah, and I fought in Vietnam, therefore I am a hero and I have the right to say anything, and blah, blah, blah, and Obama is a muslim, blah, blah, blah, and I hate everyone that doesn't think the way the only patriot, me, thinks, and finally, blah, blah and blah. PS: I am the only one in America that doesn't follow party lines, isn't it lovely and macho?

Openminded1
Openminded1

@MrObvious @Openminded1 @TimesOfToday @PerryWhite1 hey Mr. O you have aguy just like you and the other wimps who liked your pre-mature post he goes by the avatar Roge62 but true to for of  a lot of sissy's and democrats he never has ever posted anything he just hits the like icon, another ass wipe.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@jsfox Stupid get off the computer once in while and you see for your self moron its all over the news and just Fox even CNn and NBC and the rest maybe even BET but I doubt that. dumb ass.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@TimesOfToday @Openminded1 @PerryWhite1 Hey stupid read  and listen to other sources other then the white house dummy, Iran hacked into the U.S. Navy during the same time almost that your muslim buddy was on the phone. That is not childish moron it is fact.  You ass wipe are new on here so you will forgiven for your lack of research. I am 63 years old moron and retired and i am black just to bring you dumb ass up to date oh and will tell you before the other idiot liberals do I am retired cop and vietnam vetrean, just so you are up to date. Now you know and do not care but maybe you will move on to something more your speed like checkers or pocket pool I understand you dems like that kind of thing. dummy.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@TimesOfToday @Openminded1 @PerryWhite1 You see, timesOftoday, there are some American who call themselves democrats, namely, that they respect democracy, only when they elect their own representatives. When they lose, twice in a row, they spout their hatred and with this they are demonstrating the lack of respect for all those American who won electing the president of the USA. So,for 3 more years you will have to try to understand their frustrations and just cope with this. Forgive them for they know not what they are doing. Is only hatred, that is all.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@TimesOfToday @Openminded1 @PerryWhite1 Times oftoday, just imagine the face of a wolf. Straight ears, eyes almost coming of the orbits, the fur straight as needles, the jaws open showing the fangs and drooling and foaming and writing as openminded. Can you reason with somebody like this? Please, don't waste your time.

jsfox
jsfox

Iran hacked into American government computers? You have a source for this revelation or Did you receive a signal through you tin foil hat?

Openminded1
Openminded1

@TimesOfToday @Openminded1 @PerryWhite1 Iran also hacked into american govt computers within minutes of that alleged call with the ok from the Iranian govt. once again proving lack of respect for Obama as they laughed at him and the U.S. and got into our computers. so much for That Obama call. liberal morons