Iran leader withholds nuclear verdict
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei withheld his verdict on Iran’s nuclear deal yesterday but in a fiery address vowed enduring opposition to the US and its Middle East policies, saying Washington sought Iran’s ‘surrender’.
In a speech at a Tehran mosque punctuated by chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”, Khamenei said he wanted politicians to examine the agreement to ensure national interests were preserved, as Iran would not allow the disruption of its revolutionary principles or defensive abilities.
An arch conservative with the last word on high matters of State, Khamenei repeatedly used the phrase “whether this text is approved or not”, implying the accord has yet to win definitive backing from Iran’s factionalised political establishment.
“Whether the deal is approved or disapproved, we will never stop supporting our friends in the region and the people of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon. Even after this deal our policy towards the arrogant US will not change,” he said.
Under the agreement reached on Tuesday, sanctions will be gradually removed in return for Iran accepting long-term curbs on a nuclear programme that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb. Iran denies it seeks a nuclear bomb.
Khamenei’s combative remarks about US policies in the Middle East may sit awkwardly with a diplomatic offensive Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif plans in coming days in the wake of the deal.
Iran regards its nuclear programme as an emblem of national dignity and dynamism in the face of what it sees as decades of hostility from Western countries that opposed its 1979 Islamic revolution.
Khamenei did not echo criticisms of the deal made on Friday by a top cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, who said in an address broadcast on radio that it reflected excessive demands by world powers that were an “insult”.
But Khamenei’s remarks radiated a broad mistrust of US intentions, claiming that successive American presidents had sought Iran’s “surrender”, and declaring that if war broke out America would come off worst, nursing “a broken head”.
“The Americans say they stopped Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Khamenei said. “They know it’s not true. We had a fatwa (religious ruling), declaring nuclear weapons to be religiously forbidden under Islamic law. It had nothing to do with the nuclear talks.”
Later yesterday, the Supreme Leader praised Iranian negotiators who thrashed out the accord in marathon negotiations in Vienna.
“During the nuclear talks, we saw the Americans’ dishonesty over and over, but fortunately our officials fought back and in some cases showed revolutionary reactions.”
But his remarks yesterday did not shed light on Iran’s procedures for ratifying the accord, which are not known in any detail. Zarif will brief Parliament on Tuesday and the agreement will also be examined by the National Security Council, the country’s highest security body.