Iran: Rouhani faces push back from Ayatollah, hard-liners

Hard-liners in Iran, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard, say President Hassan Rouhani went too far in reaching out to the US during his trip to New York and criticized his phone conversation with President Obama. 

Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/AP
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, (r.), attends a graduation ceremony of army cadets, while accompanied by Revolutionary Guard members in Tehran, Saturday. Iran's top leader says some aspects of Hassan Rouhani's trip to New York last month were 'not appropriate,' but has reiterated his crucial support for the president's policy of outreach to the West.

Iran's top leader said Saturday that some aspects of Hassan Rouhani's trip to New York last month were "not appropriate," but reiterated his crucial support for the president's policy of outreach to the West.

The comments by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, summarized on his website khamenei.ir, came after hard-liners criticized a 15-minute phone conversation between Rouhani and US President Barack Obama, a gesture aimed at ending three decades of estrangement between the two countries.

Hard-liners, including commanders in the powerful Revolutionary Guard, have said the president went too far in reaching out to the US.

Khamenei also said the US was "untrustworthy." He has previously said he's not opposed to direct talks with the US to resolve Iran's nuclear standoff with the West but is not optimistic.

"We support the government's diplomatic moves including the New York trip because we have faith (in them)," Khamenei said. "But some of what happened in the New York trip was not appropriate."

"We are skeptical of Americans and have no trust in them at all. The American government is untrustworthy, arrogant, illogical and a promise-breaker. It's a government captured by the international Zionism network," said Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state.

Rouhani's outreach has received broad support from Iranian legislators and it appears popular, but some including the Guard appear rattled by the pace of developments.

The Guard chief commander, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, praised Rouhani recently but called the phone call a "tactical mistake" and said he should have avoided it.

"The respected president, who adopted a powerful and appropriate position in the trip ... would have been better off avoiding the telephone conversation with Obama — in the same way he didn't give time for a meeting with Obama — and left such measures until after practical, verifiable steps by the US government and a test of their good will," he said in an interview earlier this week.

The Guard is one of the few institutions capable of standing up and pushing to reverse course and acting as a spoiler if it sees Rouhani going too far and too fast.

Iran is at loggerheads with the US over its disputed nuclear program, which the West says aims at developing weapons technology. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes.

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