President Rouhani faces cheers and eggs as he returns to Iran

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and this is The World. Among all the big news stories recently, a few stick out; the fiscal shenanigans in Washington, there’s also the diplomatic courtship between the U.S. and Iran and will dive into that story in a second. You’ve also got to stick around for another story that caught our attention last weekend, the new men’s world record for a marathon set in Berlin on Sunday. The winner shaved a few seconds off the old record and in a few minutes we’ll hear just how hard it’s going to be to take off another three minutes plus to bring the marathon record under the two hour mark.

?: It’s a little bit like what Nelson Mandela said about being in prison, you know, the day seemed like years and the years seemed like days. So, sometimes a minute or two in a marathon or a 10K can be the longest minute or two you’ll ever experience.

Werman: OK. So, pushing the envelope on what’s physically possible takes time. What about changing what’s diplomatically possible as in the U.S. and Iran right now? President Obama seems to be trying. His recent phone chat with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made big waves here, an apparent sea change after more than thirty years of hostility between Washington and Tehran. Earlier, I asked Jason Rezaian about the reaction in Iran. Jason is the Tehran correspondent for the Washington Post.

Jason Rezaian; Well, I think people are admittedly surprised that the change is happening so quickly, but I think there also still a little bit reluctant to buy into it whole heartedly because this enmity has gone on for so long that we still have to wait and see. There’s still lots and lots to be done, but obviously the news of the phone call between the two presidents was a big surprise and I would say by the vast majority of Iranians a welcome surprise.

Werman: Rouhani came back to Tehran and was greeted by not exactly the welcome wagon at the airport. What happened?

Rezaian: Well, I can’t say that I was there, but from folks that I spoke to that were, it sounded like the majority of people there were supporters of his, but, you know, there was some hardline what we call besiege militants there and I guess they tried to pelt his entourage with eggs and shook up his car a little bit. It sounded like, kind of, not the prettiest scene in the world, but we certainly seen much bigger displays of opposition or hardline sentiment here in Iran over the past few years.

Werman: But as you say the majority of people who greeted him were seemingly supportive and I guess what that says is that there’s mixed reaction to all this in Iran. Is that a good thing? I mean what does mixed reaction actually symbolize in a country like Iran?

Rezaian: Well, I think it’s again, it’s a little bit too early to tell, but I think mixed reaction is a sign of greater truth that Iran is a very diverse country in terms of peoples points of view on international relations and their countries place in the world. But I think by and large, most Iranians see that relationships with the U.S. will probably lead to better economic prospects for their country; especially, if it results in the lifting of economic sanctions.

Werman: The other thing that was interesting was Rouhani talking today about the possibility of resuming flights in the U.S. and Iran. Last week Rouhani said a deal could be struck on nukes in three to six months. Would you say these signs of his hopefulness are also signs of Iranians hopefulness?

Rezaian: I think so and I think that John Carey and President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif have all said that they think they can get a nuclear deal within three to six months. I think that might be a bit optimistic, but we haven’t heard that kind of language coming from Tehran or Washington for a very long time.

Werman: You fly occasionally to the U.S.? Jason, how do you feel about a new way to get back to the United States? I mean how much time would that actually shave off your flight?

Rezaian: Lots. I think, I’m from the West Coast and to get from Tehran to San Francisco in the best circumstances takes me about 22 hours. And a direct flight from Tehran to San Francisco would be a long flight, but it would be a fourteen hour direct shot and I’m all for it. I’m ready to cut out Istanbul and Dubai from my flight paths.

Werman: I’ll bet. Jason Rezaian, Tehran Correspondent for the Washington Post. Thanks so much.

Rezaian: Thank you Mark. Have a great day.