Fareed speaks with National Security Advisor Susan Rice about President Obama’s phone call on Friday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Susan Rice, can you give us a sense of how this phone call happened, who called whom?
I think, as many people know, we had indicated earlier in the week, an openness to a brief, informal encounter when President Obama was in New York at the General Assembly. And while we were open to that, the Iranians indicated that it was complicated for them in their context and so it didn’t occur.
Today, somewhat surprisingly, we were contacted by them to say that President Rouhani would like to speak to Pres. Obama on the telephone on his way out of town, and we were able to make that call come together and it was a constructive conversation.
How long was that call?
About 15 minutes, but of course, with translation, it was a brief call, but sufficient to convey messages from both sides.
Was it friendly or businesslike?
I’d say cordial and constructive. Obviously when you have two leaders from two countries that haven’t communicated at that level for almost 35 years, it’s something of a groundbreaking event. But they both conveyed their commitment to try and explore in a constructive manner the diplomatic path. We’ve made very clear, and the president has long re-iterated – including this week at the General Assembly – that the United States will not tolerate Iran with a nuclear weapon.
But our strong preference is that this problem be resolved through diplomatic means. And obviously as a consequence of international pressure, the international community being united – of course the sanctions and the economic pressure, and the election of President Rouhani – there is an opportunity now to test the proposition of that diplomatic settlement.