Iran’s Khamenei throws support to a Practical Nuclear Deal with West

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s clerical leader, gave a speech on Sunday in which he said he supports an agreement with the West on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program that is practical and can be achieved, but added, “I will not accept a bad deal.”

The speech is being seen as a sign that Khamenei is throwing his support behind President Hasan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the latter’s go-for-broke attempt to conclude successful negotiations with the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5 + 1) regarding Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program. The P5 +2 are seeking an agreement tat would allow Iran to continue to enrich for reactor fuel but would include safeguards to prevent Tehran from ever militarizing the program.

Khamenei said,

“I concur with the continuation and progress of the negotiations and the reaching of a good agreement. And the Iranian nation is also with any agreement that is consistent with its honor and respect. It is not opposed.”

«من با ادامه و پیشرفت مذاکرات و رسیدن به توافق خوب موافقم و قطعاً ملت ایران هم با هر توافقی که دربردارنده عزت و احترام او باشد، مخالفتی ندارد.»

He added approvingly of President Rouhani that the president often says that negotiations are a process of two sides finding points in common. “This principle implies that neither side is going to get everything it wants.”

For Iran’s clerical leader to admit that his country is just not going to get everything it wants from the nuclear negotiations seems to me huge. Of course, he is also signaling to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that they have to be satisfied with less than complete victory.

It is interesting that media outlets that oppose a successful conclusion of Iran’s negotiations with the West played up Khamenei’s phrase about not accepting a bad deal, which is boilerplate, rather than the first, which is unusually positive (and which Khamenei foregrounded). Reuters correctly read the rejection of a “bad” deal as Khamenei’s attempt to reassure hard liners that he won’t give away the show to the Americans.

In fact, he explicitly said that the phrase “No deal is better than a bad deal” is the one the Americans keep using, and he agrees with them about that.

Khamenei pointed out that Iran had ceased enriching uranium to 19.75% for its medical reactor (which makes isotopes to treat cancer). He said that the “other side” isn’t satisfied with Iran keeping its pledge to do so, but wants to blackmail his country.

Iran’s leader also expressed dissatisfaction with the West’s preference for an agreement on “general principles” first, after which the details would be addressed. He said that this approach could be allow the West to later pressure Iran under the pretext of the general principles. He said he would like to see a comprehensive agreement achieved all at once that included the details.

Khamenei said, in support of Zarif, “Our negotiators are attempting to disarm our opponents. If it can be done through talks, then what better? If not, everyone knows there are other ways to blunt their sharp knives.”

I think that last bit may have been a threat.

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Related video:

WotchitGeneralNews: “Iran’s Khamenei Says would Go Along With ‘good’ Nuclear Deal”

9 Responses

  1. These talks are a waiting game and expressions such as Ayatollah Khamenei’s latest are simply different ways of keeping the game alive. A satisfactory resolution will remain elusive while Israel continues to possess heaven knows how many of what Iran is not allowed even to think of having. Israel, as is so often the case, is a distorting lens preventing the issue from being rationally approached. Some years ago a Brookings Institute survey of public opinion in the ME showed overwhelming support for a ME entirely free of nuclear weapons. However, the majority of those questioned also felt that while Israel possesses such weapons it’s probably better for Iran to have them as well. I don’t recall the exact details but that was the gist of it and I doubt such findings would be substantially different today, particularly factoring in Israel’s more recent bursts of irrational aggression, and ongoing disregard for international law and the niceties of timeless diplomatic custom. What I imagine the negotiating sessions are waiting on is either a change in US policy towards Israel, or some rebalancing of global authority towards a more poly-central system with a larger role for international norms. I can’t see much immediate prospect for either, so expect the sparring to continue in an ever more formalized manner.

  2. Iranian leaders, including Ayatollah Khamenei, have fallen backwards to reach a satisfactory compromise with the West over Iran’s nuclear program. Ayatollah Khamenei has put his full support behind the efforts by President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif and the Iranian negotiating team to reach a deal with the West. Khamenei’s recent speech seems to be an attempt to stop the tide of opposition by hardliners in the Majles, by the revolutionary guards and by rightwing elements who believe that Iran has already made too many compromises in return for very little concessions from the West.

    During the past couple of weeks there have been very strong comments in rightwing media openly criticizing Rouhani and Zarif for their failure to safeguard Iranian interests. The Iranian parliament, the Majles, has prepared some legislation that is the mirror-image of the legislation prepared by Sen. Robert Menendez and Sen. Mark Kirk, which would practically make it impossible to reach an agreement. The Majles legislation calls for safeguarding Iran’s inalienable nuclear rights, the normalization of Iran’s nuclear program, the talks should only deal with the nuclear issue, Iran’s right to rescind the final agreement if there is any violation by the other side, not roll back any of “nuclear achievements”, to continue research and development in nuclear technology, and all sanctions to be lifted in return for a comprehensive agreement.

    While not mentioning many of the above points, Khamenei stressed that all sanctions must be lifted “in the real meaning of the word”. Speaking on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Foreign Minister Zarif also echoed Khamenei’s demand and stressed: “All the sanctions must be lifted at once.” In an earlier statement, he said: “If an agreement is reached, it must be concluded in one go and must encompass both general principles and details.” The United States wants Iran to drastically curtail her nuclear activities, but wants to ease the sanctions gradually, may be over a period of ten years. This can be a deal-breaker.

  3. It’s going to be hard to sell this kind of rational to the American people when you have a war hungry media who would rather create false hysteria by showing Netanyahu with his little Road Runner bomb cartoon than promote a peaceful solution.

  4. I think the Iranians have concluded that if the USA is unwilling to reach a reasonable compromise, the sanctions and banking manipulations will just disappear anyway because the USA will be seen as the “bad guy.”

    The Iranians may be reading the international mood very well. Many countries are very upset with the US being an economic bully. Third-party sanctions and banking restrictions ONLY work when the third-parties are willing to go along with the restrictions. If other countries decide to not cooperate, there is absolutely NOTHING the USA congress critters can do. Any attempts to punish countries that trade with Iran will simply lead to massive punishment on USA companies. Many countries would love to restrict USA companies in favor of their own local companies and any further third-party actions by the congress critters would give those countries a handy excuse to whack USA companies.

    I can easily see a large number of USA transnational companies yelling and screaming at the congress critters and forcing them to back down. Then there is the historical fact that smuggling and money laundering have existed for thousands of years and the USA has no way to stop it.

    As for war against Iran, given the reluctance of the congress critters to authorize war against Syria or ISIL, war against Iran would be difficult if not impossible, especially given the mood in the USA.

    I think, in the end, Obama will get the best deal with Iran he can get and tell the congress critter and Israelis to shut up and sit down.

  5. In his speech before Congress, Netanyahu will have to go Lindsey Graham hysterical about Iranian nukes before he gets run of the front pages by rapidly worsening events in Ukraine. Putin has the west right where he wants them AND THEY KNOW IT.

  6. It seems most unlikely that Iran will surrender is capacity to make nuclear weapons, even if, through fatwas and government-to-government agreements, it eschews possession of these weapons. The fact that Israel has nuclear weapons is typically cited as a key Iranian concern. And Iran need only look at No. Korea to see the effectiveness of nuclear arms as a deterrent to military action by more powerful states.
    Nevertheless, the mortal threat to Iran is a Sunni bomb. There is such a thing;,it’s in the hands of the Pakistanis, and Pakistan’s is a remarkably unstable government beset by the Taliban. Given the antipathy toward Shi’ites that is evident in Pakistan and throughout much of the Sunni world, Iran would seem to have the most to fear in the long run from a Sunni bomb falling into zealots hands.

    If that conclusion is correct then there is nothing the US or Israel can do ultimately to assuage Iranian apprehensions about the Shi’a being obliterated by Sunni zealotry that has acquired nuclear weapons. Those apprehensions are justified. The best we can hope for from these negotiations is therefore that Iran will abide by an agreement to keep its nuclear weapons technology on stand-by. It is inconceivable that Iran will not want it known among the Salafists and their ilk that Iran is prepared for a fight to the death for its survival – a death that seems sorely desired in many parts of their neighborhood.

    • Iran has never voiced any concern about the Pakistani bomb.

      Iran does not want a bomb and no country under UN inspection has ever developed one.

    • Iran should worry more about Saudi Arabia than Pakistan.

      It has been confirmed that Saudi Arabia purchased and deployed DF-21C MRBM from China (1000 mile range) These are designed to carry a fairly large warhead – either conventional or nuclear.

      Saudi Arabia has also reportedly purchased at least one nuclear weapon from AQ Khan. No one seems to know where that weapons is, so it is possible it could already be mounted on a DF-21C.

      Note also that Pakistan is more militaristic than religiously weird, so they care more about what India is doing than disagreeing with Shia.

      On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has some of the weirdest religious nuts on earth.

  7. The last paragraph of your post, calling Ayatollah Khamenei’s comment as a threat is not very accurate; I believe your assessment stems from bad translation of that part of the speech.

    Here’s the Farsi text from his own website, followed by my rough translation:
    link to farsi.khamenei.ir
    تلاش بی وقفه مسئولین و هیأت مذاکره کننده برای خارج کردن حربه تحریم از دست دشمن، دومین نکته ای بود که رهبر انقلاب اسلامی به آن اشاره کردند و گفتند: اگر این اتفاق رخ دهد و با توافق، حربه تحریم از دست دشمن خارج شود، بسیار خوب است اما اگر این اتفاق نیفتاد، همه بدانند که راهکارهای فروانی در داخل کشور برای کُند کردن حربه تحریم وجود دارد.
    حضرت آیت الله خامنه ای تأکید کردند: اگر با همت و تلاش، به داشته های خود، به صورت مناسب توجه کنیم، حتی اگر نتوانیم حربه تحریم را از دست دشمن خارج کنیم، می توانیم آن را کُند کنیم.

    The second point raised by the Islamic Revolution Leader was the unwavering efforts of the officials and the negotiating delegation to disarm the enemy of the weapon of sanctions, saying “if this happens and the weapon of sanction is taken away from the enemy via an agreement, then that’s very good; however, if that does not happen, let everyone know that there are many strategies [to be taken] inside the country to render sanctions ineffective.” Ayatollah Khamenei emphasized, “if we give due attention to our own capabilities, then we can make sanctions ineffective even if that tool is not fully taken away from the enemy.”

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