Iran's supreme leader criticizes Rouhani for chatting with Obama

New Iranian president Hassan Rouhani got a reminder of who’s really in charge of Iran today, as well as a public rebuke for picking up the phone when Barack Obama called.  While supreme leader Ali Khameini endorsed Rouhani’s diplomatic initiative with the US, he scolded Rouhani for taking actions that were “not appropriate.” We can assume this doesn’t refer to tipping the waitress at the hotel during the UN conference:


Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Saturday criticised some aspects of President Hassan Rouhani’s landmark UN visit in which he spoke to his US counterpart but voiced broad support.

The comments were the first public response by Khamenei, who wields ultimate authority in Iran, to Rouhani’s overtures to the West in New York last week, which were capped by a historic 15-minute telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama.

“We support the diplomatic initiative of the government and attach importance to its activities in this trip,” Khamenei told military commanders and graduating cadets in remarks reported by his website,

However he added — without elaborating — that “some of what happened in the New York trip was not appropriate.”

Rouhani has been roasted by hard-liners since taking Obama’s call in New York. Khameini, who belongs to that faction anyway, needed to make sure that Rouhani isn’t taking his supposed reformer credentials too seriously. And in another reminder to Rouhani about the view of the mullahcracy, Khameini made sure that the “Death to America” part of Friday prayers continued right on schedule:

Iranians chanted “Death to America” and burned the U.S. flag after weekly prayers in Tehran on Friday despite their new president’s outreach to the West and promises of moderation and easing of tensions with the outside world.

The chants, customary after Friday services in the Iranian capital, reflect the challenges facing President Hassan Rouhani as he tries to build on the groundbreaking exchanges with Washington that included a telephone chat last week with President Barack Obama – a gesture aimed at ending three decades of estrangement between the two countries.

Rouhani’s overtures have been hailed by both Iranian reformists and the country’s conservative clerical leadership.


Really? Not all of his overtures, obviously, and not by the cleric that counts most. Just in case anyone didn’t get the spirit of the regularly-scheduled anti-US chants, the emcee made sure everyone knew it was still on the playbill:

During prayers Friday in Tehran, the master-of-ceremonies led the crowd into chants of “Death to America” at least twice from the podium.

The chant was then repeated several times by a group of worshippers who rallied after the ceremony, burning the American and Israeli flags, as they do almost every week.

That’s what the clerics say to Iranians, while they say this to Western media:

However, Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi, a cleric who led the prayers, tried to strike middle ground, saying that America and Iran should “join hands” in a struggle to overcome sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

How about this: we’ll take you seriously when the “Death to America” chants stop being part of your prayer services.  That tends to put a couple of dents in your credibility, mm-kay?  And it’s a little difficult to join hands when your dictator-for-life publicly scolds your president for just taking a phone call.  What would Khameini have said if Rouhani and Obama had “join[ed] hands”? Awkward!


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