Zarif Diary on Historic US-Iran Talks

      In an all-time first for Iranian diplomacy, new Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has been chronicling his visit to New York on his Facebook page for Iranians back home. On September 26, Secretary of State John Kerry and Zarif held their first meeting on the sideline of talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers. President Obama spoke with President Hassan Rouhani on the phone the following day, marking the first direct communication between U.S. and Iranian heads of state since the 1979 revolution.

            Zarif’s reflections on these historic events and his busy schedule have generated more than 350,000 “likes” on his Facebook page. The following are Zarif's most recent entries, translated by USIP’s Maral Noori.
September 29
Hello friends,
            It is 5 a.m. on Sunday in New York and 1:30 p.m. in dear Iran. I, your servant, and my colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are still in New York. I will continue to have bilateral meetings with foreign ministers, give interviews and have sideline meetings until Thursday. Then we will return to Tehran.
I began writing the last report for you all at 5:15 a.m. on Friday [September 27] because it was not yet the time for morning prayers. I wrote part of the report before prayers and the rest after prayers. Then I looked at some of your sweet messages that I swear would resolve any difficulty and cure fatigue.
            I ate breakfast with the president of the republic and around 8:30 a.m. I prepared for the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which I chaired, and went to the U.N. headquarters.
            The session began at 9:15 a.m. with speeches by the president of the republic [Hassan Rouhani], the U.N. Secretary General and the General Assembly president. It lasted until 1:30 p.m. About 30 ministers and senior representatives of the member states spoke about the rule of law in international relations.
      Chairing such a session is tedious because, as chairman, you do not have a lot of work to do. For four and a half hours, he or she must sit above the others, listen politely, thank one speaker, and announce the next speaker’s turn. Of course, when an international session reaches decision-making time, the chairman is challenged. I had such sweet experiences in the recent and distant past. Now, however, the chairmanship is sort of a ritual that I am not keen on, but there was no choice.
      After returning to the hotel to say goodbye to Dr. Rouhani and his delegation, I found out that Mr. Obama wanted to make a phone call. U.S. authorities had been requesting a meeting between the two presidents since the beginning of the week. It did not happen for various reasons. [But] informal contact between the parties more or less continued. A meeting between me, your servant, and Mr. [John] Kerry was held on the sidelines of the P5+1 [world’s six major powers] session. After informal communications continued, it became clear that the two presidents might be able to speak to one another over the phone. While I was administering the NAM session, five or six more Americans reached out until they managed to set up the phone conversation. Finally, the conversation was held as Dr. Rouhani was on the verge of leaving the hotel. They emphasized political will on both sides to resolve the nuclear issue as quickly as possible and stressed orders to Mr. Kerry and myself, your servant, to reach a quick solution with political will to resolve the nuclear issue from both sides. The conversation was respectful and positive, and hopefully a good start for the difficult work that requires everyone’s support, and people to wait, trust brokers, and avoid quick, partisan judgments and…
            I don’t know why some in Tehran see this trip and this conversation as a thorn in the eyes of malice for Iran, Islam and the Revolution or why they question these actions as ill-considered. Nevertheless, as Hafez [a 14th-century poet] stated (see below):
      We’ll be faithful, endure the blame, and  rejoice
      Because on our path, to despair is sacrilege
      Of course you know that this poem begins with this verse:
      I am the infamous lover in this town.
      My eyes, evil seeds have never sown.
      Hopefully, we will learn to see the good and trust each other— especially the elected [representatives] of Iranian people.
           Anyway, I had six other bilateral meetings from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday. Afterwards, I saw several young Iranian experts that had come to New York from various cities that were very sweet and enthusiastic. At the end of the session, an internal meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs delegation was held that I think was the last session [of the day]. I fell asleep as my friends were still in my room.
           I visited with several Iranians that had come from a variety of cities starting at 7 a.m. yesterday, which was Saturday. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., I had back-to-back meetings with nine U.N. secretaries at the United Nations. I even had to do my noon and evening prayers in the side hall. While standing and waiting, I ate two pieces of vegetable pizza that my friends had procured from outside.
           At the end of the trip I will present the full list of meetings. I do not think there is an important country left with a president or minister (or both) who I have not met with during this trip. Many made their own requests and followed up very diligently.
           I returned to the residence (that same residence as Iran’s ambassador) after the meetings. I must say that due to the short visit of the president and busy work schedule, all of us (even the ambassador), along with the president and delegation, stayed in the hotel closest to the United Nations headquarters. There was nothing to break the [schedule] up. But with his [the president’s] return, I went back to the residence.
           Anyways, at the residence, I had a four-hour session with a number of famous and prominent American nuclear scientists who shared their own opinions about the technical methods and proliferation risk posed by Iran’s nuclear program. The session was very useful. The esteemed representatives of the Atomic Energy Organization have come to New York to participate in P5+1 session. Overall, the meeting was good and constructive.
           I had many long meetings with some of these people [scientists] at the same residence seven or eight years ago during my time as ambassador in New York, when I was also responsible for nuclear negotiations. Those meetings towards the end of my tenure led to the idea that I presented in Paris to three European countries in April 2005 (also, for the record, the plan was to use PowerPoint!!). Unfortunately, because of pressure (from the deputy US secretary of state) over the Europeans’ plans, we did not reach a conclusion [on the nuclear issue]. Everyone acknowledges that if we had reached a conclusion then other conditions would have been created.
           Hopefully, today, which is Sunday, I will go to ABC network’s studio in New York at 8:30 a.m. to give a live interview. On Sunday mornings, American network television stations have similar shows [to ones in Iran] that they call “Sunday morning talk shows.” Each week, several American officials have interviews on these programs, which are very popular.
           This will not be the first time that I have appeared on the program. About 26 years ago, I appeared on it with Iraqi Ambassador Ismat Kittani. Due to the Iran-Iraq war, we went to a studio, sat in a room and had a polite fight. The late Mr. Kittani was very graceful. Of course, Mr. Kittani died years before the scheduling of this [Sunday’s] program… 
           After my interview, I will meet with one of the leading professors and patriotic Iranians from California (it is a six-hour direct flight to New York from there)... After that, I will have lunch with 15 prominent American professors and politicians. At dinner, I will attend a program for young elite Iranian [college students]. I will be counting the moments during this program. I saw names of professors from Harvard and MIT on the participants list who were… more or less, all under thirty years old.
           It is now 6:30 a.m. Again, I did my prayer in the middle of writing this report. I jabbered too much, perhaps because my heart is full of love and prayers, and talking with all of you friends is relaxing.
           May Allah protect you, and I am hoping to meet you again. 
September 30
Hello Friends,
           The time is 5:15 a.m. in New York. This morning I woke up earlier than usual, and for the last hour, I have been reading what you all wrote in response to my Rumi [13th-century poet] post. Bravo. Did you notice that in all my posts, this one had the most likes and more than 3000 comments? What a beautiful poem Rumi wrote...
           Yesterday, the interview and sessions were good, by the grace of Allah. Of course, the interview was very challenging. Nevertheless, I must try. I am hopeful that you will forgive me for my mistakes.
           For two hours between sessions, I found time to walk along the side of the artificial lake in New York’s Central Park that is right across from the [Iranian ambassador’s] residence. But honestly, one of my old friends who came to visit suggested that we walk and talk instead of sitting. I had not walked in the open air for more than week, other than four or five steps from the door of the car to the door of a hotel or the residence.
           The session with the Iranian elite took about three and a half hours, and was extremely useful and fun. I, however, mostly listened to my friends’ opinions and recommendations. 
           Today, I have about eight meetings at the United Nations or agencies. I am going to see some foreign ministers and several officials, including Ms. [Navi] Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. I will have discussions. Thank God that the meetings of this week are not as compressed as last week. But there are still more meetings than usual.
           May God protect you.