Returning from a five-day trip to New York for the UN General Assembly and a historic phone call with US President Barack Obama, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was greeted by his own supporters and attacked by Basiji students, who threw eggs and shoes at his motorcade.
According to Mehr News, Rouhani was greeted by supporters at Mehr Abad airport upon his return this morning. The supporters chanted slogans in appreciation, such as “Rouhani, Rouhani; thank you, thank you,” as Rouhani opened the window of his car to greet them.
After he passed through a group of supporters, a group opposed to Rouhani “suddenly stood in front of the president’s car and would not let it move, and began chanting ‘Death to America.’” At this moment, someone throw a shoe, though no one was hit.
New York Times Tehran correspondent Thomas Erdbrink tweeted that eggs were also hurled at Rouhani before the police entered the fray and guided Rouhani’s motorcade to the exit.
Approximately 100 student Basijis were present at the scene who “opposed Rouhani’s positions and negotiations,” according to Mehr. It was reported that the number of Rouhani’s supporters was several times larger than that of the Basijis.
Mehr published a series of pictures from the event though, they only showed both sets of demonstrators and not the attack. Surprisingly, most Iranian media outlets have not given the attack much coverage.
While the historic 15-minute phone call between the US and Iran leaders just before Rouhani left New York and a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers on the sidelines of the P5+1 meeting was greeted by most as a positive first step toward lessening US-Iran tensions, Rouhani and Obama must navigate difficult terrain domestically.
While some hard-line media organizations were critical of the phone call, their response was rather muted. Raja News called the conversation “strange, futile and without achievements,” a far cry from its typical rhetoric. Mashregh News urged the president to be cautious and not to “get caught up in complicated American games.”
Most Iranian officials have attempted to portray Rouhani’s trip as a success. The head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force praised the attention and respect Rouhani received in New York, saying that the resistance was due credit for it. The head of the parliamentary Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Alaeddin Borujerdi, said that Obama’s insistence on negotiations showed Iran’s strength.
Rouhani, who met today with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s foreign-policy advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, appears to still have Khamenei’s blessing to pursue negotiations with the West. The supreme leader has the final say on Iran’s nuclear file.