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New Day for Iran and the United States?

New Day for Iran and the United States?
Iranian supporters of President-elect Hassan Rowhani gather in Tehran
June 16th, 2013
11:00 PM ET

By Christiane Amanpour, CNN's Chief International Correspondent

You can watch the nightly international affairs program "Amanpour." on CNN International or in its entirety here at the Amanpour.com website.

The stunning election victory for reform and moderation in Iran this weekend takes me back 16 years to the mind-boggling election upset I covered in 1997, when the moderate cleric Mohammad Khatami won. I covered him on the campaign trail and dubbed him the Mullah with the smiling face, and in fact his was a new and different face of Iran. He was the first since the 1979 Islamic Revolution to call for reform at home, and for a type of detente (his words to me) with the West and the rest.

As word of Khatami's landslide victory swept through the country back then, I remember as if it were yesterday, an elderly, religious, working-class woman, tug my sleeve and ask me with a shy and toothless smile: "Will America make friends with us again now?" My heart skipped a beat, and it bled a little too. Iran had spoken, and it has spoken and spoken and spoken for the past 16 years. 

WATCH AMANPOUR'S DOCUMENTARY ONLINE: A Nuclear Iran – The Expert Intel

This time too, heading for the polls, the Iranian people said they wanted their next president to improve the dire economy that has plunged approximately half the country into poverty. But they also say they want better relations with the rest of the world, including the United States. They are tired of sanctions, isolation, and lurching from crisis to international crisis. Dr. Hassan Rouhani's election platform called for more moderate policies inside Iran, and for constructive engagement abroad. He is a close ally of former Iranian Presidents Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Both swung their support behind Rouhani, after the system banned Rafsanjani from running. Before he was disqualified, sources told me internal polling had shown Rafsanjani would have won by a landslide too.

Why is this important? Because Rafsanjani is known as a pragmatic conservative and in an exclusive interview with me the last time he ran for the presidency in 2005, he said he wanted to close the U.S. file and establish a relationship with the United States but only if it were mutually beneficial, and based on mutual interests and respect.

When it comes to the nuclear program, no Iranian president will give up the struggle to have the country's right to enrichment recognized, but Rafsanjani's top advisers told me this time around that as president he would have worked to ensure transparency and reassure the west that Iran was not building the bomb. It is reasonable to expect Dr. Rouhani to take a similar approach.

But gone are the days when any American or Western government might expect Iran to capitulate or cry "uncle" under pressure. Even under crippling sanctions that have devastated the majority of the people, though not the regime, Iran has not buckled.

In a discussion with veteran U.S. diplomat Thomas Pickering at the Asia Society here in New York in February, Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazzaee, said talks with the United States were not a red line for Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But he also said Iran would not engage in dialogue under ultimatums and constant threats of military action.

"As long as pressure is on Iran, as long as there is a sword on our neck to come from a negotiation, this is not a negotiation," Khazzaee said. "So therefore the Iranians cannot accept that."

Khazzaee also said Iran could agree on the level of its enriched uranium. "As much as the Iran-U.S. negotiation or dialogue or conversation is not a red line for us, the level of enrichment or the stockpiling 20 percent enrichment is not a red line for us too," he said.

Pickering sought to convince Iranians that the United States is not after regime change there.

For the 34 years since the Islamic Revolution of Iran, relations between the two countries have been locked behind a massive and growing wall of mistrust and deep suspicion.

Although periodic feelers are extended by both sides to try to break the impasse, they never get anywhere, breaking down at the first sign of resistance. For instance President Obama came into office extending a hand to Iran and offering direct negotiations. But many analysts believe that absent Iran immediately leaping to take that hand, the outreach was more a way to show willingness and thus differentiate from the Bush administration, and to better convince allies to go along with what are now the toughest sanctions ever imposed.

Despite 34 years of dysfunction between Iran and the United States, this remains the most important relationship never engaged. Look in any corner and Iran looms large: rising influence in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria backing the Assad regime, and of course the ever-menacing possibility of direct conflict unless the differences over Iran's nuclear program are resolved. And so far, years of on-again-off-again talks have failed to do that. Iran wants to see the endgame and meaningful sanctions relief, while the U.S., Europe and Israel want the nuclear program stopped or severely limited. But it will take political courage on all sides. So far the small incentives the West has offered are "just peanuts," as Hossein Moussavian, a member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team under Dr. Rouhani, told me. "They want diamonds for peanuts" he added.

And so today, I am struck by an incredibly timely lesson from the past. Fifty years ago this month, President John F. Kennedy delivered one of his most important speeches ever.

It was about the Soviet Union and arms control, at the height of the Cold War. The New York Times described in great detail how the speech was crafted by the president's master wordsmith Theodore Sorensen, a month in the making and needing to be delivered in 1963, not the highly politicized election year of 1964. And preparation of the speech was kept secret from the Pentagon lest the military balk at the idea of any deals with the USSR, its fiercest enemy.

The speech contained themes that today are prophetic for many reasons.  As illustrated in this article, President Kennedy talked about an entrenched fear of Armageddon that had taken root among the American people, who were unable then to even contemplate a time of peace with Moscow.

"Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal," President Kennedy said. "But that is a dangerous defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man-made; therefore they can be solved by man."

If the Soviet Union was the United States' mortal enemy back then, Iran has assumed that position for the past 34 years, ever since the 1979 Revolution ushered in Islamic theocracy-slash-extremism-slash-terrorism-slash-anti-Americanism around the world. This is perhaps America's most important and dysfunctional strategic relationship of our time.

And so especially today, after this election result in Iran, and after 22 years of reporting from there, I am convinced that there are mutual interests that could be negotiated, just as the U.S. did with the USSR for decades. As the New York Times reminds us, President Kennedy's speech quickly led to a hotline between Moscow and Washington, and a limited nuclear test ban treaty.

President Kennedy took political risks to stake out this new position between Washington and Moscow. We can all agree that in 34 years no U.S. president has invested anything like that political capital, making a case for why it can and must be different between Washington and Tehran. Just as the United States found Soviet Communism repugnant but dealt with it, and eventually saw it off into the sunset, it has just as consistently refused to do the same with a system it finds equally repugnant, and yet so vital to manage.

People will be tempted to shrug off Rouhani's win as mattering little in a system where the Supreme Leader - and perhaps even more so the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps - have the last word. But consider this: back in 1997, I called Khatami the mullah with the smile, and his public countenance did make a difference.

He gave me his first interview as president, arriving fists unclenched, hands outstretched. For a full hour on CNN, before the whole world, he became the first Iranian leader to apologize for the 1979 hostage crisis that had so poisoned the chalice of U.S.-Iran relations. He denounced terrorism and the killing of civilians including Israeli civilians, addressed the nuclear program and much more.

Afterwards, international diplomats who had been closely watching told me he had in fact delivered a sweeping manifesto for a new Iran with a more freedoms at home, and much better relations abroad.

Unfortunately watching in Washington, the Clinton Administration at the time could not see the forest for the trees, could not read this new language and dismissed it as more of the same, and so responded with more of its own same, "... actions not words" etc., etc., etc.

A couple of years later though, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivered an important speech in which she expressed regret to Iran about the 1953 CIA coup that ousted Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh and re-installed the U.S-backed Shah (leading in great part to the 1979 revolution – see the book "All the Shah's Men"). She also announced the United States would lift sanctions on, wait for it, pistachios, carpets and caviar! But it was a gesture and indeed, a senior Iranian official later presented Albright with some pistachios, caviar and a carpet! This was progress at a certain level. Could it lead to more?

After 9/11 it did. The Iranian people distinguished themselves by being the only citizens of that region to pour into the streets and hold candlelight vigils. President Khatami sent condolences  to the American people. Later when President George W. Bush sent forces into Afghanistan to despatch the Taliban and al-Qaeda, Iran did much more, playing a crucial role for the United States in pulling together the political solution for the new Afghanistan. (See James Dobbin's book "After the Taliban: Nation-Building in Afghanistan".)

Pickering told me this week: "That was quite remarkable. And it is an interesting testament to the fact that even after years of mistrust and misunderstanding, on some things we have been able to work together like Afghanistan and that still holds open promise."

But right after that mutual co-operation came President Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech, lumping Khatami's Iran with Iraq and North Korea. There is no way to describe what a setback this was for President Khatami and the reformist camp. It played decisively into the hands of Iran's powerful hardliners who then were determined to scuttle Khatami's reforms and reach-outs.

Blowback came in the form of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2005 election, and the past eight excruciating years. Again, I was the first to interview him as president, and he bullishly laid out for me the direction Iran would be taking henceforth, accelerating its nuclear program (as nuclear negotiator back in 2003 it was Dr. Rouhani who had agreed to a temporary suspension of the program as a confidence-building measure). In our interview I remember telling President Ahmadinejad that he sounded very aggressive. I think it is fair to say that no post-Revolution Iranian President had taken such a belligerent public stance to the world, and thus brought such backlash and hardships on his country and his people. Overnight Iran went from the president with the smiling face to the snarling president baring his fangs.

Now there is a new day, and a new chance. The Iranian people have been remarkably consistent in their desires. Will the Ayatollahs recognize Dr. Rouhani, who is one of them after all, as a face-saving agent of detente or will they clip his wings as they did Khatami's? Will the United States decide that this is a strategic relationship worth resolving with all the political courage and determination that will take?

WATCH AMANPOUR'S TRIP BACK TO IRAN: A Revolutionary Journey


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iran • Latest Episode
soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. ashok

    Wonderful column ! Iran has immense oil and gas reserves, a culture and civilisation any nation could be proud of. Time for the world, especially the US, to engage constructively with it and allow it to take its rightful place as a responsible regional power.

    June 17, 2013 at 12:25 am | Reply
    • Steve49

      This story is complete bs. It doesn't matter one bit who won the election. The Ayatollah is the man running the country and unless they (US) can change his outlook towards the west nothing is going to change. Hassan Rouhani is nothing more han a puppet and will do as told if he wants to keep his job.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:36 am | Reply
      • Kamran

        do not insult bs, cause this article is beyond it.
        And believe you all me, everything is more than "dandy" behind the scene between the 2 govs. As Joe Peshy says in one of the Lethat Weapon movies, "don't let ear ring fool you"!

        June 17, 2013 at 7:29 am |
      • cj-53

        You are absolutely right Steve49. So long as there are the likes of you, israeli politicians and israeli army generals sitting in between the US and anything in the middle east, war, terrorism and death will always be the only option.

        June 17, 2013 at 7:48 am |
      • Membranes

        As cj-53 aptly pointed out: If it were up to you and your kind, there would never be any dialogue initiated, and/or progress made, among bickering/opposing parties. And that from a secular humanist, who does NOT believe in theocracies.

        June 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Maria

      Rape My Daughter

      "Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go." (Judges 19:24-25)

      June 17, 2013 at 7:02 am | Reply
      • George

        Nice, but is there a point here? Help me.

        June 17, 2013 at 9:23 am |
      • wut!?!

        Gibberish!

        June 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Get Real

      Expect this tow elh ead to be worse than amadinnerjacket ever was. THis is the head ayatollah's way to cement the mullah's tyrannical rule on the Persian people. Persia will be done with islam at some point because it is a foreign arab system put on them by force. Islam is not a great factor with the young in Iran. Most despise the mullah rule. It will boil over and heads will roll and that is a good thing for Persia.

      June 17, 2013 at 8:39 am | Reply
    • Naluthara

      There is little Iran can do actually to change its situation. If Iran's nuclear issue were only a matter of US national interest, the problem between them might have been solved long before as the US always showed some pragmatism in such cases. But unfortunately IRAN is something related to US internal politics, lobby and election money. The US leaderships always prostrate infront of any powerful internal groups such as ISRAEL LOBBY or Cuban exiles. America is ready to accommodate TALIBAN but not at all IRAN? Why? We wonder how could they do this if this is not the case?

      June 17, 2013 at 11:15 am | Reply
      • shahram

        Well put ...and so obvious and evident ...except of course to 90% of americans...american middle east policy is now wholly and completely governed by zionist interests in any issue pertaining to israel...there is no longer any kind of discussion on this matter among american politicos!

        August 17, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Herman

      Yeah...people are waiting in line to live there.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Reply
    • meifumado

      When Iran shakes off the shackles of Islam and becomes a true democracy then the world should have talks with Iran.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Reply
    • Noel

      The same people still run the country. Don't expect much to change.

      June 17, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Reply
    • ED4

      I agree with the part about Iran having a great culture and most people do like the Iranian people. The world seems to be doing fine without Iran's oil & gas reserves. In fact the embargo will probably accelerate the move away from fossil fuels which is a good thing. It is not up to the west to "let" Iran take a responsible role as a member of the world community. Iran can do this by itself through example assuming the current leaders allow it.

      June 18, 2013 at 1:44 am | Reply
  2. Shawn

    Wow! Let's hope both side don't screw this up. Iran has so much potential and a lot to offer the world. Unfortunately, it's the mullahs that hold the true power of the people in Iran. I hope they can be persuaded to change.

    June 17, 2013 at 12:34 am | Reply
  3. Ali

    Khanome Amanpoor mamnoon, chon shoma yek Irani hasti.
    Matn ham khoob bood. Jam banditoon benazare man zaef bood.

    June 17, 2013 at 12:48 am | Reply
    • Kamran

      WRONG! I beg to differ, with the exception of the last part. Suggest that you look at my post above!

      June 17, 2013 at 7:31 am | Reply
  4. LordHawHaw

    It's wishful thinking inasmuch as Americans old enough want payback for the kidnappiing of our embassy staff. Call it primitive, but such nationalist views are not uniquely American. Iran is thought of as a rogue nation that hangs teenagers and stones women.

    June 17, 2013 at 1:28 am | Reply
    • TheBob

      Give it a rest with the hostage thing already. It was 34 years ago. An Iranian president apologized for it 15 years ago. No US president has ever apologized for the 1953 CIA coup.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:08 am | Reply
      • TomC

        Good point. I wonder what would happen if we did.

        June 17, 2013 at 6:01 am |
      • LordHawHaw

        The embargo on Cuba has lasted even longer. I'm not saying that it is good to bear grudges. It is just a political reality.

        June 18, 2013 at 10:53 am |
      • shahram

        ...nor shooting down a civilian plane over THE PERSIAN GULF (not the Gulf of Mexico but in Iran's own backyard ) with 200 plus Iranian civilians on board....given the anger against the US because of its historic meddling within a violent revolution , the US got off lightly with just its diplomats being grabbed. On the other hand,the 1953 CIA coup changed the course of the history of modern Iran and the Middle East. An evil american crime which won't be forgiven nor forgotten easily. I don't think neither Iran, nor Chile, nor Mexico, nor Venezuela, nor Cuba, nor Bolivia, nor Syria, nor Viet Nam,nor the Philippines, nor Cambodia, nor Laos, nor the Palestinians, nor Greece, etc and etc OWES ONE IOTA OF APOLOGY to the Godfather....quite the reverse!

        August 17, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  5. Naeim

    There is no question that Iranians and Americans are capable of being fierce allies. They have been in the past, prior to the Islamic revolution, and the potential of it happening again is certainly there.
    However it is very naieve of you, to write a such a column expressing how the US has missed opportunities in past to reconcile with the Islamic Regime.
    Sighting, JFK's speech certainly does not validate your POV. The Soviet Union and the US did not reconcile. The Soviet Union ultimately imploded due to its own dysfunctional governance, and so will the Iranian regime in due time.
    And it is only then that the two will again embrace one another as trusted friends.
    Yes the US has to make concerted efforts, just as it did with the soviet Union. Let the regime implode.

    June 17, 2013 at 1:36 am | Reply
  6. Winston Smith

    Come now – we all know that there is a 'cabal' in charge behind the scenes, and have been under both Bush and Obama {and largely, even before}, and that this cabal will simply not allow a new day to dawn with Iran.

    We all know who this cabal is – how they created an 'Office of Special Plans' to lie us into Iraq as bin Laden, 9/11s patsy, slipped into Pakistan.

    The nukes issue was, is, and shall be a ruse to replace Iran's regime with a US/NATO puppet which doesn't threaten Israel, and to have its oil sold in dollars, and to establish a private central bank issuing a fiat currency as a loan at interest.

    The American people will not have the leisure to care about this, as the dollar and welfare state collapse.

    June 17, 2013 at 1:42 am | Reply
    • sarah

      some people are really paranoid.
      (conspiracy,behind the scenes,wolf in sheep cloth)

      September 26, 2013 at 3:08 am | Reply
  7. Rick

    Why does CNN keep asking this question as if the president of Iran has any power at all. Their elections are nothing more than a farce and the president is not much more than a mouthpiece for those actually in power. There is about as much chance of things changing in Iran as there is in North Korea.

    June 17, 2013 at 1:55 am | Reply
  8. Shishir Lamichhane

    Iranian people are in great misery and their clamor needs to be addressed. The new president-elect Rouhani, a moderate and person of wisdom, as thought to be, I believe is making strategies already to deal with the countrys demand. He should do that. Iran's declined economy, unemployment rate, inflation and growing poverty is all more important things that needs to be addressed more than the nucelar program, for whose sake the leaders till this date have sacrificed its peoples right to live happily. But USA and Iran needs to understand that, mistakes have been made from both the sides, when we talk of the hostage crisis, we must not also forget the CIA coup. There are scores of other things also. I believe that instead of running in the race of who has got the upper hand, both country needs to think beyond the rough patches they had.
    Nuclear program is a danger for world peace, this is not what fears the USA I believe. The rise of a new power in the region is what USA fears.
    Anyways, I also believe that a country is driven by its national interests and today the national interest of Iran aks Iran to move hands towards good relation with the international community. Cutting ties with the global community has left Iran paralyzed. Rouhani has to adopt some measures soon for the removal of santions or something better. The leaders anywhere, not only in Iran should listen to the peoples' voices and stop treating and directing them as bewildered herds.

    June 17, 2013 at 2:03 am | Reply
  9. Cyrus the Great

    This election will not amount to anything so long as the Supreme Leader and the rest of the country is ruled by theocrats.

    June 17, 2013 at 2:12 am | Reply
  10. Maria

    Jesus Will Kill Children

    "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." (Revelation 2:22-23)

    June 17, 2013 at 2:55 am | Reply
  11. Maria

    Stone The Woman!

    "If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;" (Deuteronomy 22:22)

    "Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 22:24)

    June 17, 2013 at 2:56 am | Reply
    • Divebus

      You know something, Maria, I know you're trying to equate the Christian extremist view with that of Islamic extremism. The subtext you're espousing is that Christians are just as barbaric as Islamics. The difference you're not advertising is that Christians stopped doing that stuff a thousand years ago, but the Islamics are just warming up. They're doing it now. Your examples cite adultery as the trigger for a good stoning. In the Islamic world, all you need to do is be a girl trying to go to school.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:47 am | Reply
    • Joe M.

      If you can find any Christians that have strictly adhered to those sorts of passages in the last 1000 years, you may have something to equate with the Muslims who follow the more violent strains of their preachings. Otherwise, there is no comparison – one group exists today, the other hasn't for a thousand years..

      June 17, 2013 at 7:45 am | Reply
      • sam

        That isn't completely true. The crusades were conducted to kill thousands of none Christians based on the fact that they were of a certain religion.

        June 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Semiot

      Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

      2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

      3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

      4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

      5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

      6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

      7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

      8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

      9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

      10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

      11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

      June 17, 2013 at 8:48 am | Reply
    • Jew for Jesus

      Maria,

      You need to get some facts straight. First, you can stop citing the Old Testament, as it is made clear that Jesus established a New Covenant so Christians wouldn't have to follow these types of laws. In fact, the only Old Testament law Jesus commanded was to "love thy neighbor like thyself." As for your citing of Revelations, this is a book written entirety as a metaphor. It describes the end of days and the final judgement of man.

      Regardless, I'm not sure why you are quoting Christian scripture (that you are likely just pulling from Google searches, rather than reading those verses in its proper context) in an article about Iran's new "President." May I suggest you take your hostility elsewhere? You don't sound very TOLERANT! Take a deep breath; life is good!

      June 17, 2013 at 10:41 am | Reply
  12. Amanpourcritic

    Give us a break Amanpour!
    You are a pathetic excuse for a human being.
    The disrespectful brainwashing NLP exercise she tried to have with Gaddafi will always be remembered.

    She is a tool – and a fool.

    June 17, 2013 at 3:09 am | Reply
    • dan

      right on! Amanpour is a Persian terrorist lover who will do anything to blacken Jews

      June 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  13. asaad erfan

    Had somebody else won the election, what would the CIA media machine be talking about now?

    June 17, 2013 at 3:31 am | Reply
  14. waqaroptimist

    I hope that this newly elected president takes Iran to a progressive state.
    http://waqaroptimist.wordpress.com

    June 17, 2013 at 3:37 am | Reply
  15. Maria

    Stone The Woman!

    "If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;" (Deuteronomy 22:22)
    "Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 22:24)

    Comment

    Consider the religious man who happens to accidentally receive an injury to his testicles (stones) or the loss of his penis (privy member). According to the Bible, and regardless of his righteousness or goodwill toward men, mind you, but just because he lacks a penis, he should never enter a Church or Temple.

    Also pity a poor man born of a mother who, for whatever reason, including rape, may have born him out of wedlock. He too should, according to the Bible, never enter the Lord's congregation.

    June 17, 2013 at 3:58 am | Reply
  16. Maria

    Rip Up Pregnant Women

    "Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up." (Hosea 13:16)

    June 17, 2013 at 3:59 am | Reply
  17. mzoa

    History will judge the failure to capitalise on this narrow window of opportunity to normalise ties between Iran and USA an embarrassing colossal failure of our politicians, independent media and common sense.
    Iranians very much like Americans and historically they have had a very amicable relationship. Both sides have had lapses of judgement for one another ( US 1953 sponsored coup d'état against democratically elected PM Mosaddegh, and the consequent taking of US embassy hostages in 1979). Narrow minded people on both side will forever be stock in the past can not able to get pass these historical misjudgements.
    Both countries, regional/global community have a lot to gain by Iran and USA working together. There are however obstacles on the way, the war mongers like AIPAC in USA with their huge control of media and politicians, the non-compromising extreme religious groups in Middle East (ME), the European countries that consider ME a market for EU and would do anything to slow or block USA progress in ME and off course other competing powers who would love to see USA engaged in another decades of conflict this time much bigger only to see USA economically weakened much more and give them time to play catch up in Asia, Africa and South America.
    It will be an embarrassing colossal failure of our politicians, independent media and common sense, if both sides fail to capitalise on this narrow window of opportunity to move forward. USA and Iran despite pressure from above narrow minded self interested pressure groups should start direct negotiations without any precondition but also be prepared to face dirty tactics on it's route to normalisation of ties.
    May god bless the wise and that common sense and peace prevails at the end of the day.

    June 17, 2013 at 4:17 am | Reply
  18. Kint

    "Will the system allow Rouhani to deliver?"

    I think that's one of the biggest questions. Obama stumbled over the system, too, and the American system is supposedly less restrictive than the Iranian...

    June 17, 2013 at 4:29 am | Reply
  19. Captam

    Christiane, your love for your childhood home is evident and justified. A wonderful people and beautiful land kidnapped by religious zealots. Regrettably improved relations between the US and Iran, until they allow unfettered inspections of their nuclear facilities, all of them, is a romantic dream. An "election" of a figurehead president is meaningless, mere window dressing. This is the realpolitik of the situation. Take Care!

    June 17, 2013 at 5:56 am | Reply
  20. Richwood

    If they get rid of the religious dictator maybe but that has a snowballs chance in hell of happening. Otherwise it will be the same murder place, rape place, where women are treated like dirt, no freedom, no justice, no honor, no integrity, no peace, no compassion, no love,.

    June 17, 2013 at 6:01 am | Reply
  21. Jack Rivera

    Before all of this bad stuff between the US and Iran started, many Iranians came and went and enjoyed being in the US. I had an Iranian teacher in high school back in the 60's. We've had a long relationship with Iran and it is time we agreed on some kind of formal relations going forward. There is no reason we should be upset with Iran and trade day in and day out with China.

    June 17, 2013 at 6:07 am | Reply
    • Joe M.

      FYI, China isn't directly supporting terrorist groups planning deadly attacks all over the world, including to kill diplomats on US soil.

      June 17, 2013 at 7:41 am | Reply
  22. True Man

    He won the election because he can speak fluent Arabic, Russian, French, German and English. He will talk to all people to ease the sanctions. Ahmadinejad can't speak good English that's why he had bad relations with USA and UK. Chinese and North Korean can't speak good English that's why they have bad relation with USA!!!

    June 17, 2013 at 6:16 am | Reply
  23. Joe M.

    A brilliant move by Khameinei. By "electing" a "centrist", he bought Iran at least another year of Obama trying to reach out and make nice. As a result, that's one year closer to the bomb, just by manufacturing an election!

    June 17, 2013 at 7:39 am | Reply
    • Semiot

      I am afraid you are right.

      June 17, 2013 at 8:51 am | Reply
    • dan

      exactly!!!!

      June 17, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  24. Ebe,Chiedozie C.

    I think it all boils down to the US.They not only need 2 show a hand of fellowship 2 Dr. Rouhani,but extend it necessarily 2 d Ayatollah's who really 'run the show'.They also must be very diplomatic in coaxing Iran to d direction that is mutually beneficial,not only 2 both countries,but for the middle east n the world as a whole.This is what the world will now come 2 expect of d US & Obama must employ d best of his diplomatic craft n personnel 2 make this a reality.It will be a political tragedy 4 him if he allows d 'new hope' installed by peace-loving Iranians to die!

    June 17, 2013 at 7:40 am | Reply
  25. Rozeller

    Obama is the most political President ever. He's not a statesman. He's not going to do anything. He could make a pretty speech.

    June 17, 2013 at 10:07 am | Reply
  26. derykhouston

    Christiane Amanpour completely misses the point that Iran has every right to process it's own nuclear fuel and the west simply will not allow it to have that right. Israel has too much power over the USA.
    If Iran says it will be open and allow inspections, the west will simply say that they must be hiding it;s research. That is what happened in Iraq. It was impossible for Iraq to prove that it didn;t have something. And that will clearly be the same case for Iran.
    Iran will never give up it;'s right to process it's own fuel. No other country in the world would give up it's right to have control of it's fuel supply. Certainly Britain and the USA and Israel have said openly that they would never give up that right. (But they expect Iran to do exactly that)
    The west has brutally destroyed peoples lives with these sanctions and have only increased the level of hate and eventual backlash.
    It does not care about international law and how sacred that idea is and so we will have to accept the mess.

    June 17, 2013 at 10:10 am | Reply
    • dan

      ignorant naïve nitwit

      June 17, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Reply
      • derykhouston

        Iran has every right to process it's own nuclear fuel. And they will do it despite childish comments like dan's.
        History will be on Iran's side.

        April 22, 2014 at 9:51 am |
  27. scorpionic1

    Iran will never move forward until they can shackles of Islam and the Fascist theocracy...

    June 17, 2013 at 10:11 am | Reply
    • sasan

      Iranians were the first civilization and still more civilized than the rest of the Middle East. They just want to be independent. Have nothing to do with terrorists. The world must respect democracy and peaceful people.

      June 17, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Reply
      • scorpionic1

        Iran was always advanced and cultured.. Long before Islam was even created,and the Temple's of fire were in Iran long long before Arabs broght islam..Iran will never be free until they can get rid of the religious fascists that are in control.

        June 18, 2013 at 4:19 am |
  28. murid

    this is a great article christiane....
    and you are absolutly right "Unfortunately watching in Washington, the Clinton Administration at the time could not see the forest for the trees, could not read this new language and dismissed it as more of the same, and so responded with more of its own same, "... actions not words" etc., etc., etc.
    many politicians in washington have to open their eyes for the good for the usa and the world ... to be religious is not necessary a ennemy of the west or usa ... .!!..
    in Iran there is election and presidenst are coming and going...in saudia arabia,quatar , UAE there is no election and the woman has no right to drive a car in saudi arabia ...!!! some rethinking is urgently need in usa !!!

    June 17, 2013 at 10:38 am | Reply
  29. Farshad

    The question is who is Rouhani and where has he come from! Isn’t it a little bit strange that a name not that popular or known has become a symbol of green movement in just a few weeks? Rouhani is not even belong to Khatami’s group so he’s not a reformist. Khatami couldn’t do anything special in 8 years of his presidency so just forget about this new face!
    It’s important for westerns/the world to know the president of Iranian regime doesn’t have much power. The leader is the one who rules the country and runs the regime.
    There won’t be any change in main political strategies of the Iranian regime like supporting Hezbollah, helping Assad’s regime in Syria (and other shiit radical Muslims around the word) or uranium enrichment program (read going toward the atomic bomb!).

    June 17, 2013 at 11:31 am | Reply
  30. Victor Lgo

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=AIBYEXLGdSg Please, clik here. Brazil is in war. help us!

    June 17, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Reply
  31. ProperVillain

    He's a cleric. He will do nothing more than plunge Iran further into the dark ages. I'm Christian but I am all for a secular government. Every religion and religious leader, if given the reigns of power, will invariably oppress. It happens all the time on a smaller scale in most American mega-churches. Megalomania reigns supreme.

    A secular government has it's issues too. However, if a dictator in a secular government comes to power they don't dress up their oppression as being the will of the almighty.

    June 17, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  32. Shakir Bukhari

    Iran is not unstable country like Pakistan and Afghanistan. very cultural and peace full people. world sanctions put them in to problems. i think new president will work with the world.

    June 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  33. dan

    Of course the Persian Amanpour will whitewash Iran's new president who said in his very first speech that he will not budge on the nuclear issue. He spoke about "transparency". Hahahahahaha. What he means is we will negotiate for years with the West and then stop negotiating. Meanwhile we will enrich uranium and enrich and enrich. But the violently Israel hating Amanpour does not care. Her beloved Persia will be a world power, she knows and hopes. "peace in our time" Chamberlain said. Do you know who that was, Amanpour?

    June 17, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  34. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    IRAN

    Listen up...

    When "I" say RED LINE... It means... Ahhh. Ummm. It means... CODE PINK

    June 17, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  35. Andrea

    This is the second time the USA have the opportunity to engage Iran in constructive talks (the first one was when Mr. Mohammad Khatami became president). I understand that it's hard to brush aside the Iran hostages crisis.
    Never the less Iran is squeezed between Afghanistan, the former USSR Caucasian republics, Pakistan and Iraq, in the very middle of the world's most unstable area. Iran, for it's own security, must either rely on a strong relationship with the USA (which has always been Iran traditional ally, since the collapse of the British Empire and till the revolution) or the Bomb. I hope the American leadership will be give proof of all the pragmatism, goodwill, and common sense, which have secured the USA prominence in the free world.

    June 17, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  36. Ali Kimiai

    As an Iranian activist I call this election a sham and orchestrated by Obama's administration and British lobbiests. People are tired of Islamic regime and what you saw on the streets of Tehran was not the real sentiment people in General have toward the regime.
    Only 18 million votes were casted, an all time low turn out and the whole process of selecting the candidates was a sham to begin with.
    How would you like to have a public execution at the corner of your street early in the morning or have the girls wear Hijab and cover themselves in layers in the heat of summer?
    How do you like to see the best minds of your nation leaving the country any which way they can?
    How would you like to have your neighbors son selling his kidney to help his family financially when the price of oil is at a record high?
    How about having the Heroin and meth so affordable that most Iranian youth are addicted to them since it is cheaper than cigarette and they are unemployed and have nothing else to do?

    June 17, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  37. Andrew M

    Christiane - Thank you for putting things into perspective. Such journalism can really enlighten people.

    June 18, 2013 at 2:04 am | Reply
  38. Fatih Koncuk

    Well, it is a good trait to be honest in journalism as in other professions. But, You have not done so. You have depicted the Erdoğan's İstanbul meeting picture as "Protests in Turkey".It is extremely wrong. What you are supposed to do is to make a formal denial of what you have broadcasted yesterday with regard to the Istanbul meeting if you are honest. If not,I am calling you dishonest and crook. You have your own share in upheavals, deaths and grievances in the country. You are trying to instigate people to revolt. Know this: The Turkish people will get together again.
    Fatih Koncuk

    June 18, 2013 at 3:40 am | Reply
  39. tutuvabene

    At least you can pronounce the guy's name.

    June 18, 2013 at 7:49 am | Reply
  40. William deB. Mills

    When talking about Iran, U.S. political labels merely confuse Americans. Rouhani will not act moderate because he “is” moderate but because and only because the U.S. offers Iran a “moderate” deal so couched as to be of clear benefit to Iran. It is a fool’s errand to attempt to determine the degree to which President-Elect Rouhani, deep in the recesses of his mind, truly fits in what Americans take to be the “moderate” box. The idea is laughable. His culture, religion, and life experiences are not such that fit neatly into the curiously defined U.S. boxes: moderate? liberal? conservative? radical? Sorry, the correct answer is: none of the above…it depends.

    If Washington wants to deal effectively with Rouhani, to persuade Rouhani and the rest of the Iranian leadership to behave in accordance with U.S. goals, then it is up to Washington to create conditions that will make such behavior attractive. If Washington wants Tehran to relinquish certain military options, then Washington must logically offer appropriate national security guarantees in return. Some discussion of regional nuclear umbrellas based on regional nuclear transparency would be in order. If Washington desires progress, it must show that a logical way exists for Iranian politicians to move in that direction. A genuine opportunity for mutual benefit now exists. But bilateral cooperation will not just happen; creative leadership will be required to bridge the canyon of distrust. If Washington hopes to entice the new Iranian president onto a new path, then Washington will have to stop playing the regional bully and come up with a logical and creative foreign policy stance.

    June 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Reply
    • Naluthara

      The reason for no negotiation is that the leadership both in Iran and in the US are not free enough to take an independant decision. As a matter of fact the one who supervises Iranian president (i.e, KHAMNEI) is more flexible and pragmatic than the one who supervises US president (i.e, ISRAELI LOBBY). Now the US is going to talk to TALIBAN and there is no problem for the president domestically for such a decision! Imagine TALIBAN is the group which harboured US enemy no. 1!. The president cannot act similarly against Iran even though the so called crime committed by Iran against the US is simply forgivable.

      June 19, 2013 at 2:45 am | Reply
  41. Ali

    بعید می دانم رئیس جمهور اوباما فرجام کندی را فراموش کرده باشد. به نظر می رسد صلحی به میان نیاید.

    July 1, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Reply
  42. Massood

    For the last 34 years US has been meddling with Iran on any doltish reason to put sanction. Be sure US will diverge and come up with another silly reasons for more discord and sanctions. What has US done since the 1953 coup to reverse complete mistrust from Iran. I am not sure if the peoples comments here includes the course of histroy US relation and treatment toward Iran. Lets be realistic and encourage politicians to gain some Iranian trust. It is right time and lets obtain and earn mutual trust, this will be a path toward better relationship. I agree with Christiane that is the right timing.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:31 am | Reply
  43. mike rowhani

    i think christiana knows and understands the setuation more than any body else. as a dual citizen of both iran and the united states whom travels back and forth i have seen enough to know that even though khamenei has the final word in iranian politics but still people's vote does matter and it does tell khamenei's group wheather they agree with his policies or not.
    when he was going with ahmadinejad and againgst bush, he got the votes. when he was going with ahmadinejad agains obama he didn't and people voted for a more moderate, piecefull minded hassan rohani, whom at a fair negotiating table would want to have good relations with the u.s. and the rest of the world.

    August 25, 2013 at 5:46 am | Reply
  44. Alex Orobey

    Remember this about Iran it is run by a Muslim dictator who KNOWS that god backs everything he does whatever he does is for the good of “god”. Rouhani is his puppet!
    Being a good Muslim it is accepted to lie to the infidels, make promises you will never keep. It’s is also accepted to lie and make promises you will never keep to Muslims who are not pure like you are.
    Bottom whatever Iran says or pledges, promises is a lie and they cannot be trusted EVER!
    Stop giving them good press Iran is the greatest danger to the civilized world! The only thing they respect power. They want a nuclear bomb to use it to purify the world from non-believers in their carzy warped vision of a Muslim paradise here on earth today!

    September 20, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  45. Walter Sieruk

    It would be wise not to trust in anything that Rouhani may say. For example, "According to a 2012 report from the Middle East Research Project [MEMRI]...Ayelet Savyon, the director of theIran deak for MEMRI... stated 'Just because Iran has a new president, that hasn't changed their goals...Their agenda hasn't changed, the only thing that has changed is the image they are trying to present to the world.' "

    September 21, 2013 at 11:41 am | Reply
  46. ergin

    If humanity stops being defeatist and start trusting each other, we will ultimately steer to a path that reaches far beyond earth

    September 25, 2013 at 8:34 am | Reply

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