Nightly News   |  September 27, 2013

The phone call heard around the world: Obama talks to Iran’s president

President Obama’s phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani marks the first time the nations’ leaders have communicated directly since 1979. What does this mean for their future relationship? NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the leaders of the united states and iran spoke to each other directly half of the current population of this country had not yet been born. it's been a long time indeed. there's been a long history in between, but today president obama and rouhani of iran made it known they indeed spoke by telephone. this is all part of a new leadership effort by iran suddenly claiming they don't want nuclear weapons . what they want now is talks and transparency and goodwill. and while that would be enough to define a whole new era, skepticism is high and there's a good reason for it. we begin our coverage of all of this tonight with nbc's chuck todd at the white house .

>> reporter: it's an encounter that the white house was trying to orchestrate all week long. but instead of a hand shake in new york, the president had to settle for a phone call initiating the first contact between these two leaders of these two countries in over 30 years. the president called up his iranian counterpart. speaking through translators, the call lasted 15 minutes .

>> we discussed our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over iran's nuclear program . i reiterated to president rouhani what i said in new york, while there will most surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, i believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.

>> reporter: according to white house aides the call came to fruition after what they described as productive meeting thursday between secretary of state john kerry and iran 's foreign minister. ruiny actually scooped the president's announcement of the phone call tweeting news of it just minutes before mr. obama spoke to reporters. rouhani has spent much of his week at the united nations trying to dazzle the west with a new diplomat tone including at today's closing press conference.

>> translator: as a first step we can stop further escalations of tensions, then reduce tensions then move to understand each other.

>> reporter: it's been more than 30 years since the leaders have spoken. at that time jimmy carter was president and it took place just before the country's islamic revolution . this kind of outreach to an international foe is something candidate obama promise d.

>> and i have disagreed with senator clinton for example on meeting with iran .

>> reporter: the president never did reach out to rouhani predecessor, mahmoud ahmadinejad , but it was rouhani's new tone that changed mr. obama 's calculus.

>> we have a unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in tearen.

>> reporter: the biggest skeptic is america's number one ally in the middle east , israel. prime minister benjamin netanyahu comes to the white house on monday. brian, i'm already told the white house has briefed israel on all parts of the conversation that took place.

>> chuck todd at the white