By Tara Kangarlou and Jim Sciutto
From wishing Jews a Happy Rosh Hashanah to an historic phone call with President Barack Obama, Iran’s president is pursuing a new kind of outreach. One of his vice presidents compared it to Richard Nixon’s ping pong diplomacy, credited with opening relations between the United States and China more than 40 years ago.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Mohammad-Ali Najafi, Iranian vice president and head of Iran’s richly funded Cultural Heritage and Tourism institution, said he believes such outreach could do the same for relations between the United States and Iran today.
“I adamantly believe in cultural diplomacy and believe the thing that could improve relations between (the) U.S. and Iran after the years and soften the harshness of this relationship is cultural diplomacy,” Najafi said.
Najafi, who reportedly planned to run for president and is considered part of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s inner circle, invited all Americans to visit Iran and regarded tourism as a primary tool to create “long-lasting and effective” engagement between the two countries.