Iran Parliament Rebukes Foreign Minister for Obama Handshake
US President Barack Obama and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s historic handshake at the UN headquarters this Monday might have been confused for a further development in ties following the recent nuclear deal, but Iran’s parliament is taking pains to clarify that hostilities are as strong as ever.
Members of the Iranian parliament are preparing a statement to protest the handshake, which was the first such high-ranking handshake in over 30 years.
Aside from the planned statement, in Tehran’s parliaments Iranian MPs chanted “Death to America” on Wednesday.
“With whose permission have they met Obama?” deputy Bahram Biranvand said according to Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency. “Last time they talked to Obama on the phone and this time, with whose permission?,” he added, referencing a call between Obama and President Hassan Rouhani in 2013.
Iran’s conservative judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie, also slammed Zarif indirectly, saying “some spies are paid but there is another kind of spying that we have to watch out for. He prepares the ground for the enemy.”
“These people would say: ‘Why not allow a friendly handshake with the enemy? What’s wrong with shaking hands with Obama? What’s wrong with sitting with them, chatting away and drinking with them?'”
Explaining the statement to be signed by parliament, influential MP Mojtaba Rahmandoust told the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency on Wednesday that “the lawmakers are signing a statement to voice protest at the foreign minister’s shaking hand with the US president.”
Rahmandoust went on to stress that the handshake was a simple nicety given the UN meeting, and that it should be clear to the world that “Zarif’s act doesn’t mean Iran’s (sic) hand-shaking with the US.”
Zarif’s foreign ministry quickly went on the defensive after the handshake as well, claiming that the grasping of hands came as Zarif was leaving the UN around noon and “incidentally ran into the US delegation headed by President Obama.”
But despite the explanations, the Principlist camp of conservative parliamentarians is in an uproar, saying Zarif should have refused to shake hands “with the head of an arrogant, aggressive state.”
Trying to play damage control during an appearance on Iranian state TV on Sunday night, Zarif said Iran has only agreed to talk to the US about its controversial nuclear program to get sanctions lifted, noting, “we had said since the beginning that our negotiations with the US would be limited to the nuclear issue and we don’t talk about other issues.”
He said US officials tried to raise other issues with the leading state sponsor of terror, “but we have always emphasized that our bilateral negotiations are limited to the nuclear issue based on the framework specified by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution. We didn’t enter negotiations on Syria or other regional issues in our talks with (US Secretary of State John) Kerry.”