Iran’s Khamenei Praises Nuclear Deal, but slams US Foreign Policy

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s clerical Leader, appeared to be attempting to mollify hard liners on Friday in his Friday prayers addresses.

On the one hand, he praised the negotiators at Vienna who in long and arduous negotiations crafted the deal on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. He said its path to ratification would proceed in accordance with the law. He said, “Hopefully it will be.”

He said Iran’s security and policy are unaffected.

He expressed annoyance at repeated American assertions that they had closed off Iranian paths to a nuclear weapon with these accords. He said,

“Many years ago I gave, on the basis of Islamic principles, a fatwa forbidding the construction of a nuclear weapon. We have a legal prohibition on the production of such a weapon. The Americans, despite sometimes recognizing the importance of this fatwa, in their instructions and remarks have lied and allege that they have prevented Iran from making an atomic bomb.”

ما سالها قبل براساس مبانی اسلام، فتوای حرمت تولید سلاح هسته ای داده ایم و برای تولید این سلاح، مانع شرعی داریم اما امریکاییها با وجود اینکه گاهی به اهمیت این فتوا اذعان می کنند، در تبلیغات و رجز خوانیها دروغ می گویند و ادعا می کنند تهدید آنها جلوی ساخت سلاح هسته ای ایران را گرفته است.

So he reasserted his fatwa (which there is a concerted attempt in some quarters in the US to deny) against nuclear weapons. That he has this stance tells you why he agreed to the nuclear deal. He never wanted an atomic bomb, indeed, has forbidden them, and I think President Hassan Rouhani convinced him that Iran would be better off if it acquiesced in the inspections that would convince the suspicious west of Iran’s good intentions.

He also said, “We do not accept any war, and will never start a war.”

On the other hand, he defended chanting “Death to Israel!” and “Death to America.”

He said with regard to Iran’s foreign policy, nothing will change and it will go on supporting its friends regardless of what the US thinks. He condemned the US for branding Hizbullah a terrorist organization. He said the US is supporting Israel, which has killed children [during the Gaza War last summer].

He expressed his sorrow for the travails many people in the Middle East region are living through, mentioning Bahrain, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen.

His subtext is that the United States is supporting the far right wing Sunni monarchy of Bahrain in its crushing of protests by Bahrain’s disenfranchised Shiite majority. The US actively collaborates with Israel in punitive policies toward Palestinians and enables Israel to keep them stateless and under economic siege. The US supports the Saudi and GCC war on the Houthis in Yemen. And the US says it wants to see Bashar al-Assad overthrown in Syria, though Khamenei clearly thinks what will come after that overthrow will be ISIL or al-Qaeda rule over the 10-14% of the Syrian population that is Alawite Shiite.

That is, in these four countries, Iran is at odds with US policy. Khamenei played up this policy differences with the US to underline his continued anti-imperialism.

Khamenei did not mention all the ways that the US is now de facto allied with Iran, e.g. against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). For instance, in Iraq (which he did not mention in connection with popular suffering), the US Air Force has bombarded ISIL targets while helping Iraqi Shiite militiamen, who in turn are supported by Iran.

So Khamenei was ignoring his partial alliance with the US, and playing up the places where he has policy differences with America. I conclude that he was playing to the hard liners in the audience.

His speech was an attempt to convince the hard liners that he is still an anti-imperialist, and that he has not gone over to the Americans. He underlined that he will continue to have deep policy differences with the US. None of those differences, he implied, is affected by the nuclear deal, which is narrow and specific.

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Related video:

Press TV: “Ayatollah Khamenei: Iran’s stance toward US ‘won’t change’ (Full speech)”

13 Responses

  1. The best headline I have seen regarding the agreement:
    “Iran Won the Vienna Accords By Agreeing to Stop What It Never Was Doing”

    Really, that says it all…..

  2. This is an absolutely correct reading of what Ayatollah Khamenei was saying. Like President Obama who has his powerful, irrational opponents, Khamenei too has to take the Iranian hardliners with him. In the same way that President Obama says that the sanctions brought the Iranians to their knees and they gave in to US demands, Khamenei also puts a positive gloss on the deal.

    Another important point that you allude to is what he said about Iran not having initiated any wars in recent times and will under no circumstances wage a war against any country. I believe he was trying to send a message to Israel and may be some regional Arab rulers that, contrary to Netanyahu’s fear-mongering about what Iran might do after the lifting of the sanctions, Iran does not intend to use her enhanced position to attack anyone or to start a war.

    • “……..sanctions has brought the Iranians to their knees….”

      Look at the $18 trillion-dollar national debt, a massive import-export deficit, and huge U.S. auto manufacturing costs that were due in substantial part to the Arab oil embargo, activism of OPEC and the sanctions against Iran and explain how blind U.S. support for Israel has not harmed American interests.

      The sanctions against Iran cost that country $500 billion – but U.S. economic interests sustained serious damage as well.

  3. Does anyone doubt Khamenei is anti-imperialist? I have no Farsi but from the various translations it seems to me he is simply stating the facts they way he sees them. Obama and the US media have had a field day twisting news of these negotiations this way and that to make them conform to the image of a disciplinarian bringing an errant troublemaker into line. No one else gives the slightest concern to the others at the table, others without whom no deal could have been done. It puts one in mind of periods of imperial Rome when all achievement had to be effected by the emperor, and a successful general would even let victory slip from his grasp, fearful that any glory he might earn would make the emperor blood lettingly jealous, It could be Putin’s ability casually to sort out US made problems, like Syrian chemicals, that makes him so distrusted.

    • I agree that he was stating the facts the way he sees them.

      Also, regarding the fact that he did not mention ISIS, I think he skipped it because he is not sure about it.

      Khamenei simply doesn’t believe that the US is seriously against ISIS. He has said that many times; sometimes with a few examples of contradictions in American policy. My understanding is that this is not a misrepresentation on his part. The Iranian conservatives really believe the US simply wants to contain the problem of Salafist extremism but doesn’t want to solve it. And I am afraid there is abundant evidence for this reading of the intentions of “America” as a unitary actor, regardless of what Obama or Kerry may actually wish to do.

  4. People tend to overlook the fact that often times a nation’s leader has to speak to different audiences. If you go back and look at the pronouncements by Communist China in the late 60’s and early 70′;s, right up to the time of the normalization of relations with the US, Chinese rhetoric was much more threatening and harsh than Iranian rhetoric. I remember reading an eye opening book in the mid or late 60’s comparing Soviet and Chinese foreign policy. The author pointed out that while Chinese rhetoric was much more bellicose, their actions were really more cautious than Soviet actions. Similarly, we need to look at actual Iranian actions more than listen to their rhetoric. The last time Iran attacked another country? You might have to go back to Xerxes; certainly more than 100 years.

    • I agree. I am currently visiting California and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. I just wish the United States would leave the rest of us alone.

    • I bet the majority of most nations hate their home countries foreign policy, the leaders of the world are playing dangerous games without their citizens support, and some how they continue to get re-elected, east/west, democracy/theocracy, capitalism/communist, it does not matter, elite leaders around the world do whatever they want

  5. The United State is the sole superpower and the only state with global power projection capabilities. It has proven time and again that it will destroy societies. Acquiescing was in Iran’s best interests. It continues a horrible precedent but as long as we live in a world where America is willing to inflict suffering on populations, deals like this are to be celebrated.

  6. There must be a considerable amount of cognitive-dissonance going on amongst the warmongers who are convinced – absolutely convinced – that Iran wants a bomb so that it can nuke Israel.

    If that is true then this agreement amounts to abject surrender by Tehran, precisely because agreeing to this deal means agreeing Not To Nuke Israel For At Least The Next Decade.

    Yet they have agreed, which must mean that Obama has won big ti…. oh, my head! My head is hurting!!!

    Because there is that inconvenient truth: if Iran is hell-bent on nukin’ the Zionists before all these mullah’s fall of the twig from old age then Tehran would never have agreed to this deal.

    Because *if* they were nuke-obsessed *then* this deal is poison for them, and congrats to Obama and Kerry.

    Buuuuuuut…….. what if the Iranians really didn’t want a nuke? What if they really were being truthful about that fatwah?

    Well, in that case they haven’t really “given up” anything of consequence, precisely because what they have just agreed to give up is the ability to do what they weren’t doing anyway.

    In *that* case they have got the better of the negotiations, but the only way to make *that* argument is to accept that they weren’t trying for a nuke in the first pla….. arrrrrgh! That headache again! My brain! My brain is hurting!!

  7. Between the hostage crisis and the CIA coup which installed the Shah in the ’50s — both clearly illegal and morally unjustifiable — both countries still have some understandably raw nerves. Apologies cannot change the past, but they can play a big part in reconciliation. I think it would help if Iran apologized for holding 52 of our citizens hostage for over 400 days, and we apologized for holding their entire country hostage for over 25 years.

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