"Just now I spoke on the phone with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Obama said Friday afternoon at a press briefing.
This is big. As an Iranian-American who recently came back from visiting family in Iran, I can tell you that people were anxious for a moment like this to happen.
My family and the Iranian people more broadly are very happy to hear the news about the telephone conversation between President Obama and President Rouhani. This conversation marks the first conversation between a U.S. president and Iranian president since the Iranian Revolution 34 years ago.
Since then relations between the two countries have deteriorated and there's been a lot of concern over Iran's nuclear program, which has resulted in international sanctions placed on Tehran.
At a press conference earlier this afternoon, Obama says, "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 agreement."
This brings closure to a lot of disappointment that both leaders missed an opportune moment to talk at the United Nations earlier this week.
According to the Iranian president's twitter account the conversation ended by Rouhani wishing Obama "a good day," and Obama saying, "Thank you. Khodahafez," a common Persian parting message.
Across the Twitterverse and on Facebook these concluding comments have been going viral.
Going forward it's important for the two to keep talking. Despite what some argue, communication is essential for a repaired relationship. Iran has indicated strongly its desire to resolve the conflict. And the people of Iran have bestowed upon their newly inaugurated president a mandate for moderation.
Obama is the first president to respect Iran and have a clear desire to improve ties in order to avert military conflict. Going forward, it's also important the president refrains from certain trigger phrases, which could repel the Iranian government from earnestly talking about its nuclear program.
Such triggers may be not respecting Iran’s right for a peaceful nuclear program. Or language such as, “a military option is still on the table.”
Respect is an extremely important component of repairing relations. After September 11, Iran aided the United States in capturing hundreds of suspected terrorists, but President Bush decided to clump Iran in what he referred to as the “axis of evil.” The type of language that Obama’s predecessor used is not one based on mutual respect, and Obama understands this. He’s exploring a markedly different foreign policy with Iran, one that will likely pay off.
Marzieh Afkham, spokeswoman for the Iranian foreign minister, said, “Unfortunately, the U.S. administration is still adopting the language of threat while dealing with Iran,” according to the New York Times. “We have announced that this needs to change into the language of respect.”
Today’s phone conversation was an olive branch for respectful dialogue in the coming months.
I give high accolades to President Obama for his open-mindedness and desire to engage the Iranian government based on mutual respect.