Iran’s president suggested in an interview published Thursday that normalized relations with the United States were possible one day, an assertion that differed markedly from one expressed by his superior, the country’s supreme leader.
While the president, Hassan Rouhani, said the Americans would have to apologize to the Iranian people and "correct the mistakes they’ve made over the last 37 years," as preconditions for a resumption of diplomatic ties, he did not rule it out.
The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, by comparison, has repeatedly said that the United States was still Iran’s enemy, the slogan "Death to America" is eternal, and that the Americans could never be trusted, despite the nuclear agreement reached in July between Iran and major powers.
The contrast was a stark example of the mixed messages coming from the Iran hierarchy since the nuclear accord was achieved. While Rouhani and his aides have expressed hope that it would help create the basis for ending Iran’s prolonged economic isolation, hard-line conservative elements have warned against what they have called the insidious effects of greater interactions with the United States.
Rouhani spoke to correspondents for Corriere della Sera, a leading Italian daily, in an interview in Tehran before his visit to Italy, which starts Saturday. It was Rouhani’s first interview with a European newspaper since he was elected two years ago. A transcript was posted in English on the newspaper’s website.
Asked how the nuclear agreement would change the relationship between Iran and the United States, Rouhani said: "The nuclear deal is one thing and the relationship with the U.S. is another." Iran’s problems with the Americans he said, "are longstanding and begin with the victory of the Islamic revolution."
Nonetheless, Rouhani said, if the agreement is carried out, "it will lay the foundations for a lesser tension with the U.S., thus creating the conditions for a new era."