Islamist members of the Iranian press are wondering if President Hassan Rouhani may end up in a face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the upcoming funeral services for South African icon Nelson Mandela.
These publications are not happy about the possibility, calling it a “trap” laid by the “great Satan.”
Extremist Iranian newspaper Kayhan hyperbolically editorialized that if Rouhani were to go to the Mandela funeral, it would be an event organized by the “head of the Great Satan government” to force an unwanted meeting between Iran and the west.
“Some domestic and foreign media outlets are using the funeral ceremony as a pretext to push Rouhani towards a meeting with the head of the Great Satan government,” the Kayhan editorial claimed.
Since he became President of Iran, hardliners there have criticized Rouhani for supposedly engineering a “thaw” between Iran and the west. In particular, Iranian hardliners have criticized Rouhani for the 15-minute phone call that occurred in September between the Iranian president and Obama during the former’s visit to the U.N. in New York.
It was the first official, direct communication between an Iranian leader and a U.S. President since relations ended after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution that put the Islamist Mullahs in control of that Persian nation.
The Kayhan editorial, headlined “Satan lays a trap, this time in Johannesburg,” pointed to comments recently delivered by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“We support the government’s diplomatic moves including the New York trip because we have faith (in them),” Khamenei said at a function in October. “But some of what happened in the New York trip was not appropriate.”
Hardliners have interpreted that as being a rebuke of Rouhani’s phone call with Obama, but Khamenei offered no further clarifications of his comments.
Yet, even with all this speculation and condemnation, no official word has come from the Iranian government as to whether or not Rouhani is to attend the state funereal in South Africa in the first place.
The Iranian government has already offered its official condolences.
In addition to the official message of sympathy, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a message on Twitter, saying, “We in Iran join the people of South Africa in mourning the death of Nelson Mandela, who inspired humanity with his courage & compassion.”