Will Obama, Rouhani Meet?

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“Thirty-four years have passed since Iran and America severed relations,” wrote Reformist newspaper Etemaad in an article headlined “Rouhani-Obama: One Meeting, 50 Views” that compiled the views of Iranian politicians, economists, sociologists and writers on whether Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and American President Barrack Obama would meet one another at the UN General Assembly this week.

While an official meeting between the US and Iran is not on the table, many in the Iranian and world media are speculating about whether Rouhani and Obama would greet one another. Both Rouhani and White House spokesman did not rule out an exchange between the two presidents, which would be a dramatic sign that the countries are attempting to improve relations. While the compilation of views is not balanced, its introduction offers an interesting perspective of the past 30 years.

“It’s been more than three decades that the embassies in both countries have been closed,” the article read. “One on Taleghani Street has been turned into a museum, and the other on Massachusetts Street in Washington, DC collects dust. The ups and downs of the last three decades in the Middle East have made Iran and America neighbors on the eastern and western borders,” in a reference to American military troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

During every president’s term, the issue of negotiating with America becomes an important issue, the article said. “During President Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s term, meaning the end of the war, the issue had serious opposition. Leftists of the Path of Imam … explicitly opposed and resisted the smallest sign of a probable negotiation between the United States and Iran. During President Mohammad Khatami’s term, the roles became reversed. The right took the place of the leftists, and the leftists became Reformists whose theory was to lessen conflict with the West.” And the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was so “unprecedented,” the article wrote, that both the left and right opposed him.

However, now it is Rouhani’s turn, who has “the strengths of previous administrations and is relieved of the competitive sabotage and opposition of the [previous] administrations.”

The article continued, “Iran today is neither a country at war, with the destruction of an eight-year war, nor is it a country whose western and eastern neighbors America has triumphantly taken over.” The article continued, “The current America is a new America. It has had two wars of attrition in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has passed the Syria crisis to its stubborn cold-war opponent and it has pushed sanctions against Iran to where it can.”

“Now after 34 years, two opponents will face on another,” the article concluded. “Hassan Rouhani, with complete discretion, will face an Obama who has stood alone against those in his country that want war.”

Many Reformist publications have tended to view a possible greeting between Rouhani and Obama favorably, while more conservative and hard-line media have urged caution. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who met with Rouhani shortly before he departed for New York today, has recently spoken in favor of diplomacy, and signs appear to support that Khamenei has given Rouhani discretion to solve issues regarding Iran’s nuclear file with the West.

Of the 50 individuals that Etemaad interviewed, 21 said that Rouhani and Obama would meet and two said that they would not, while the rest expressed doubt or thought that it was “probable.”