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Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly
Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly

PARIS – It was indeed a different face for Iran at this year's United Nations General Assembly. Back in Iran, and elsewhere around the world, news outlets and regional analysts Wednesday were measuring the potential geopolitical significance of the first big strides onto the world stage made the evening before by newly elected Iranian President Hasan Rouhani.

In Iran, the President’s declarations were duly welcomed, as was a perceived change of tone toward Iran from other world leaders. IRNA cited the conservative parliamentary Speaker Gholam’ali Haddad-Adel as saying that Rouhani’s declarations were intelligent, “considered and timely,” adding that the change of tone toward Iran indicated a recognition of its sense of “resistance” and “authority.”

Haddad-Adel said any sustained dialogue between Iran and the United States would depend on keeping this “correct” tone and removing “contradictions” in decision-making in the United States, a reference to the influence he observed as being wielded there by Israel and its partisans.

A commentator in the reformist daily Shargh observed that the change of tone was attributed to Iran’s perceived moderation since Rouhani became President and for the regime’s new posture, dubbed “heroic flexibility” and approved by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Another commentary in Shargh observed that the would-be “historic” meeting of Rouhani and U.S. President Barack Obama that did not occur indicated the sides’ pervasive caution based on the diplomatic standoff of the past three decades. It observed however that the “positive atmosphere” persisted so far.

The conservative newspaper Resalat cited a conservative parliamentarian and cleric Hojjatoleslam Ruhollah Hosseinian as saying “everyone must back” the President should he decide “for any reason” to “engage in discussions” with the United States. He said he doubted Mr Rouhani would start any talks without consulting with Supreme Leader Khamenei and “receiving his permission.”

Allusions were made in several papers to the economic benefits for Iran of a détentewith the West, and hopes expressed that the domestic currency market would stabilize. The conservative daily Jomhuri-e Eslami warned however in an editorial that politics were unpredictable and the public should not be led to believe that “if certain relations were renewed” or agreements reached, “all problems will immediately be resolved.”

A senior general separately said that the President had defended “revolutionary” positions and “abandoned reformist slogans,” Fars news agency reported. General Hassan Firuzabadi, head of the armed forces joint command, said the Presidential speech at the UN had shown once more the “reasonable” nature of Iran’s Shia clerics.

Global media outlets highlighted the new tone, with El Mundo concluding that the day’s events represented the “greatest” rapprochement between Iran and the US since Iran’s 1979 revolution. But the Spanish daily also noted that a much-anticipated encounter between the US and Iranian presidents did not materialize, even though the United States had sought the meeting. In the end, it was seen as “hasty” in Iran, given three decades of mutual suspicions and Iran’s entrenched anti-Western rethoric.

Radio France Internationale noted that Rouhani’s moderate tone “left room for hope” for further dialogue. Le Monde called Mr Rouhani the most “courted” statesmen at the UN that day, and observed that the “curiosity” he prompted among delegates was “itself a victory” for Iran’s diplomacy, heralding a “spectacular return” from international isolation that was “inconceivable” under his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The French daily remarked on Rouhani’s pledge that Iran would act “responsibly” over regional security, an allusion to its role in Syria.

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