Obama & Zarif: Controversial Handshake

On September 28, President Barack Obama shook hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. The exchange, confirmed by U.S. and Iranian officials, lasted less than minute. But it caused a firestorm among hardliners in Iran. Lawmaker Hamid Rasaee likened the encounter to shaking hands with Satan in an Instagram post (see below). The top line of text reads, “Mr. Zarif! Did you sign the nuclear deal with the same hand?”

Mansour Haghighatpour, a lawmaker and member of Parliament’s special committee to review the nuclear deal, said that he hoped the report was false. “If Mr. Zarif has done such a thing, he has definitely ignored the system's red lines,” he said, according to Tasnim News via AFP. “America is still the enemy of the Iranian nation and the US insists on its enmity towards Iran. Therefore, shaking hands with the enemy is contrary to the revolution's principles and against the nation's rights.” Another lawmaker, Mohammad Hassan Asafari, told The Associated Press that there should be an “investigation” to see what the circumstances were.

The handshake was also a topic of debate in Parliament the following day. Lawmaker Bahram Biranvand was furious with Zarif. He shouted:
“Who has allowed Zarif to shake hands with Obama? Right at a time when death has embraced thousands of Hajj pilgrims in Mina, Zarif embraces Obama and the U.S. secretary of state. Damn! Zarif has made a fatal mistake by shaking the hand of Obama as the Iranian foreign minister. As an ordinary citizen, if Zarif hungers for an Obama embrace, he can resign and go take up residence in their house [the White House].”*
Vice-Speaker Hassan Abutorabi-Fard, however, warned Biranvand against “foul language in criticizing someone who has proven to be serving the late Imam [Khomeini] and the Supreme Leader.”
Zarif-Kerry handshakes became a regular occurrence when nuclear negotiations began two years ago, but the Obama-Zarif handshake was the first known between a U.S. president and an Iranian foreign minister since the 1979 revolution. Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency, citing an Iranian official, reported that the encounter was not preplanned.
In January, Zarif also faced criticism after he took a 15-minute walk with Secretary Kerry through Geneva’s streets during nuclear talks. Parliament summoned him to account for his actions.
The following remarks include additional criticism of Zarif.
Judiciary Spokesperson Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei 
“We have one type of spy who is a foreign hire and who receives a salary from them for giving secret and classified information, which spying for countries that are satanic like America comes with a heavy punishment, but there is another method of spying that we must be watchful of, an individual who does not appear to be paid by the enemy and does not give classified information, but has set the scene for the entrance of the enemy and lessens the enmity of the enemy. For instance he says it is no longer the Great Satan and it has come to its senses and this is the lessening of enmity.”  
—September 30, 2015, via Mehr News 
“One who today wants to spy for America, the Great Satan, and cooperate with this country is guilty, a traitor, and eligible for punishment.” 
—September 30, 2015, via Raja News 
*Translation via Iran Front Page