Did Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweet a greeting to the world's Jews on Rosh Hashana?
It sounded a bit far-fetched, and perhaps it was.
Iran's former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and threatened to wipe Israel off the map. But his successor, President Hassan Rouhani, considered a relative moderate by contrast, has taken a somewhat softer tone. So, when Rouhani allegedly tweeted the following, it quickly became news:
However, it's unclear whether the tweet really came from Rouhani. The account above appears at first blush to be legitimate, with some 30,000 followers (although many of them apparently have begun following in the last several hours). Also, there's another account for "Dr. Hassan Rouhani" that also looks and feels legit.
In any case, the Fars News Agency, considered Iran's leading independent news agency, quoted presidential adviser Mohammad Reza Sadeq throwing cold water on the authenticity of the message:
President Hassan Rouhani "does not have a tweeter account," Sadeq said, explaining that "proponents and fans of Mr. Rouhani were active in the cyberspace during the recent presidential election in Iran and used many web pages with titles similar or close to Mr. Rouhani ('s name) to run their activities."
Sadeq added that "any official news on him (the president) is released by the presidential office" and that "only the news released through this conduit is official."
In late August, the same Twitter account that's generated all the buzz had Hassan Rouhani condemning Syria's use of chemical weapons and inviting the international community to take action against Damascus.
It all comes amid another exchange of tweets getting lots of attention on Thursday — between a day-old account purportedly belonging to Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Twitter user Christine Pelosi, the daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
It went like this:
Update At 4:10 p.m. ET:
Robin Wright, a journalist and foreign policy analyst at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Institute, tells NPR's All Things Considered that both Twitter accounts in question are in fact authentic.
Asked by ATC host Melissa Block whether we know that the account attributed to Zarif is real, she says "we do, because I asked him myself."
Wright says she's known Zarif for some two decades and she contacted him via email and confirmed the authenticity of the exchange with Pelosi.
As for Rouhani's account, Wright says has identified it as one of two real accounts used by the president's office.
"[It's] the one that we've been following since the spring and has been carrying the kind of interesting messages about outreach to the West," she says.
Alireza Miryousefi, the head of the press office at the Mission of Iran at the United Nations related for the The Two-Way an interview Zarif conducted with (the official) Iranian News Agency (IRNA):
Miryousefi quoted Zarif as saying: "[Jews] are a minority [in Iran] ... they have their rights ... and we congratulate [them on] their new year. He [also said that] we condemn [the] Jewish massacre by Nazis as we condemn [the] Palestinian massacre by the Zionists."