Will President Obama meet with Iran's new president at U.N. General Assembly?

(CBS News) This year's United Nations General Assembly in New York City may hold some opportunities for diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran, with both President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attending.

The expectations are "sky-high" for this year's gathering, according to CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett. He explained on "CBS This Morning," "We have to understand the symbolic importance of a meeting in the first place," he said. "There has not been direct contact between the United States government and Iran at a high level since before the Iranian revolution in 1979, so even a handshake in the hallways would symbolically mean a closening of relationships between the United States and Iran.

How serious is Iran about direct talks with the U.S.?
Iran's nuclear program: Breakthrough in sight?

He continued, "A meeting between President Obama and President Hassan Rouhani, the moderate president of Iran, is probably unlikely in the sense of a 20-minute sit-down sort of conference. A glancing shake of the hands or an encounter that indicates that the United States is willing to listen and is more intrigued by Rouhani's move toward moderate rhetoric might be in store."

However, a full meeting between the presidents may be unlikely because some diplomatic officials in the U.S. believe things have not progressed enough in terms of establishing trust between the two nations, particularly regarding potential concessions from Iran concerning their nuclear program, Garrett said.

Additionally, Garrett said conversations in the White House have focused around ranking parallels between the U.S. and Iran. He said, "Vice President Biden will be here on Wednesday and there have been off-the-record conversations within the White House about 'Well, you know, Rouhani is not the equivalent of President Obama. The supreme leader, (Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei), is.' Well, if Rouhani is a vice [leader] in Iran's political structure, maybe Vice President Biden could have a meeting on Wednesday, and that could be a way to set the stage for deeper negotiations if the Iranians signal they have some things to talk about and are willing to concede some points on the nuclear question."

And at the center of that question is whether the Iranians will concede access to their nuclear equipment for inspections indefinitely in order to prove it is a peaceful program. "They have to concede what they have been unwilling to concede in these nuclear talks. ... If they're not going to do that, even a handshake is not going to resolve that, but they have a new foreign minister who is in charge of negotiating these things -- also a moderate like the Iranian president and if he comes with new ideas, they can get this done."

Watch Garrett's full analysis above.

  • Amanda Cochran

Comments