by Shawn Amoei
In the latest sign of increasing press freedom and Iranian receptivity towards a thaw in relations with the United States, one of Iran’s leading dailies published on Monday an interview with the State Department’s Persian-language spokesman, Alan Eyre. With his photograph emblazoned on the front page of Shargh, Eyre’s interview represents the first instance in which a US official has been given such a platform in the Iranian press since the Islamic Republic’s founding 34 years ago.
The unprecedented move appears to be part of a shift in Iran’s political atmosphere, which saw heavy media restrictions during the term of President Hassan Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While Eyre presented the official US line on Iran, the feature was clearly depicted in a positive light with the headline, “Alan Eyre: We Seek the Lifting of Sanctions” alongside a rather sympathetic image of the spokesman. This could be representative of a broader attempt by Iranian media, sanctioned by Iranian officials, to warm up the political mood in Iran toward the possibility of a detente with the United States.
Following is an excerpt from the interview as translated by the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau:
Shargh: How can closer ties between Iran and the U.S. help to resolve the nuclear issue?
Alan Eyre: As Obama and Rouhani remarked, the opposite is correct, that it is solving the nuclear issue that can be an important solution to mending the relations between two countries.
Shargh: What is the U.S. view on the diplomatic approach of the new president?
Alan Eyre: Both the president and Secretary of State strongly believe that there is an opportunity for diplomacy and we hope that the Iranian government uses it. We welcome the change in tone, but as always we say there is a big difference between words and action.
Shargh: To what extent is the U.S. side ready to take trust building steps?
Alan Eyre: The U.S. and P5+1 are ready to answer Iran’s trust-building actions with the same actions. Our suggestions in Almaty, which were not answered, had the same features and we hope that the new government gives a conceptual reply to it.