Obama's New Pen Pal: The President of Iran
US is hoping to thaw relations with Rouhani
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2013 7:26 AM CDT
Iranian President Hasan Rouhani speaks during an interview with state television at the presidency in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 10, 2013.   (AP Photo/Presidency Office, Rouzbeh Jadidoleslam)

(Newser) – US-Iranian relations have been tense lately—and by "lately" we mean for more than three decades—but the election of moderate Hasan Rouhani may have changed all that. President Obama has been exchanging letters with Rouhani in recent weeks, the LA Times reports, and officials say it's possible the two will meet on the sidelines of the next UN General Assembly in two weeks. US and Iranian officials are also quietly working up to the first face-to-face talks between the nations since the Islamic Revolution.

Both sides have been more cordial in public as well. Obama made a point of listing Iran as a potential ally in controlling Syria's chemical weapons in a recent interview, pointing out that Iran "detests" chemical weapons, having been on the receiving end of them in the Iran-Iraq war. (Naturally, he didn't mention the US' role in those attacks.) Rouhani, meanwhile, has been eschewing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Western bluster and Holocaust denials—he even sent a tweet wishing Jews a happy Rosh Hashanah. Another sign the new administration may be different: Iran's new envoy to the UN nuclear agency says he will cooperate with the agency to "overcome existing issues once and for all," Reuters reports. He also, however, said Iran won't give up its right to produce nuclear energy.