April 9, 2015 | Policy Brief

Khamenei Breaks Silence over Nuclear Framework

April 9, 2015 | Policy Brief

Khamenei Breaks Silence over Nuclear Framework

There is “nothing to congratulate,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Thursday, breaking his silence over a nuclear framework agreement signed with international negotiators a week earlier in Switzerland. In a televised address, Khamenei demanded all sanctions be immediately lifted while at the same time saying he had not been closely involved in drafting the agreement’s details.

“The Leader did not take a position … because there is nothing to take a position about,” Khamenei said in remarks blending his usual vociferous anti-Americanism with uncompromising demands that directly contradict the U.S. fact sheet announced a week prior. Despite the fanfare with which the agreement was received in Washington and Tehran, Khamenei’s reaction bodes ill for negotiators hoping to reach a comprehensive deal by their June 30 deadline. 

As Khamenei indicated, the gaps between the two sides remain wide: “All the trouble will arise when the details are discussed.” The United States, he said, is “stubborn, does not live up to its promises and is prone to stabbing in the back.” 

The supreme leader claimed to trust his negotiators, to provide them with ample room to maneuver and does not meddle in the intricacies of the talks. Later in his remarks, however, Khamenei did exactly that, laying out the details of Iran’s many “red lines” beyond which it will not budge.

An “immediate annulment of all sanctions is one of the demands of our officials,” he declared. Conditioning the removal of sanctions on a lengthy negotiations process, he added, “would be senseless. The goal of the negotiations was to remove the sanctions!”

On Iran’s military installations, Khamenei said, “One must absolutely not allow infiltration of the security and defense realms of the state on the pretext of inspections, and the military authorities of the state are not – under any circumstance – allowed to let in foreigners.”

“Defense capabilities” has long been the regime’s code language for ballistic missiles and “possible military dimensions” to its nuclear program.

More broadly, Khamenei pushed back against negotiators’ hopes that Iran would ratify and implement an “Additional Protocol Plus” with the IAEA for monitoring and verification. “Any unconventional inspection or monitoring which would make Iran into a special case would not be acceptable,” he said, “and the monitoring must only be like that for other regimes – nothing more.”

In an otherwise combative speech, Khamenei’s address did contain a number of minor concessions representative of the “heroic flexibility” he has long touted. Addressing research and development, he said: “Scientific and technical development in different fields must continue,” but added that negotiators “may consider it necessary to accept some restrictions.” While insisting that the current talks address only Iran’s nuclear file, he added: “if the counterpart stops its bad behavior, one could expand … to other issues.”

On the whole, however, Khamenei’s remarks represented a blustering challenge to the United States, including renewed accusations of American bad faith and spin, and accompanied by the crowd’s usual refrain of “Death to America.” The supreme leader’s latest demands are sure to put pressure on the Obama administration to make even more concessions if it wants to turn the “agreed” framework into a final deal. 

Ali Alfoneh (@Alfoneh) is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Behnam Ben Taleblu is an Iran Research Analyst. Follow @FDD_Iran on Twitter. 


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