Even before Rouhani spoke, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran might simply be playing for time. "Israel would welcome a genuine diplomatic solution that truly dismantles Iran's capacity to develop nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement. "But we will not be fooled by half-measures that merely provide a smokescreen for Iran's continual pursuit of nuclear weapons. And the world should not be fooled either."
In Washington, some lawmakers said sanctions should be intensified until Iran stops enriching uranium. We dont need words from Rouhani; we need real action from Tehran, said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the author of legislation to broaden U.S. economic sanctions. The regimes commitment to negotiations shouldnt be measured by rhetoric, but by the nuclear activities it ceases. Through crippling economic sanctions we can continue to increase the pressure on the regime.
Rouhani also faces opposition by conservatives at home to improved relations with the United States. That consideration apparently prevented Iranian diplomats from agreeing in talks with U.S. officials to what would have been a meeting between the two presidents during a luncheon for world leaders hosted by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Iranian state-run Press TV said that Rouhani skipped the lunch because alcohol was served. But a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said that Iranian officials declined in talks to arrange a meeting because of domestic political considerations.
It was too complicated for them to do that at this time given their own dynamic back home, said the senior administration official. Clearly, there are complicated dynamics in Iran surrounding the relationship with the United States.
In another bid to appease his conservative opponents back in Iran, Rouhani used his speech to lambaste U.S. policy toward Iran and the Middle East, and called the harsh economic sanctions imposed by Washington on Tehran a manifestation of structural violence that are intrinsically inhumane and against peace.
But several analysts noted that his criticism of the United States was far tamer than the bombastic speeches that his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, delivered at the United Nations during his eight years in power.
Even in his criticism of the United States, in the Iranian context, it wasnt particularly harsh, said Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian Council, an advocacy group, and the author of two books on Iranian foreign policy. He pointed out that they can reach a framework on how to manage the differences.
Parsi said that he also was encouraged because the two leaders used similar terms in describing their willingness to engage in serious talks.
Theyve both used the same language and pointed to the same paradigm: mutual respect, mutual interests, and a rejection of zero sum politics, he said.
The sides new readiness to engage in serious negotiations after eight years of deadlock will receive its first test on Thursday, when Secretary of State John Kerry is to join his counterparts from Russia, France, Britain, Germany and China in talks with Irans new foreign minister, Javad Zarif, on how to move forward.