TEHRAN, Iran—Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said a historic nuclear deal with world powers reached this week won’t change Iran’s policy towards the “arrogant” government of the United States.
Khamenei said Saturday in a televised speech that U.S. policy in the Middle East runs counter to Tehran’s strategy and that Iran will continue to support its allies in the Middle East including the Lebanese Hezbollah, Palestinian resistance groups and the Syrian government.
“Our policy toward the arrogant U.S. government won’t change at all,” Khamenei said. He was addressing a large crowd in Tehran, broadcast live on state TV, to mark the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, said Iran and the U.S. follow sharply different policies in the Middle East, making more a wide-ranging agreement unlikely.
His comments are seen as a response to President Hassan Rouhani who said the historic deal in Vienna “can step-by-step remove bricks from the wall of mistrust” between Iran and the U.S. should the accord be implemented in good faith.
Iran calls its Lebanese ally Hezbollah a “resistance movement” while the U.S. classifies it as a terrorist group. And Iran continues to call for the destruction of Israel; Khamenei in his Saturday speech described Israel as a “terrorist, baby-killer government.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strongly opposed the deal, saying it will enable Iran to emerge from crippling economic sanctions while doing nothing to moderate Iran’s aggressive behavior around the Middle East.
“U.S. policies in the region are 180 degrees in contrast to Iran’s policies,” Khamenei said. “Whether this text (nuclear deal) is approved or disapproved, we won’t give up supporting our friends in the region. The oppressed Palestinian nation, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, the honest mujahedeen of resistance in Lebanon and Palestine will enjoy our constant support.”
Khamenei said Iran’s direct talks with Washington were limited to the nuclear issue and that there can’t be any dialogue or deal with the U.S. over other issues.
“We have no negotiations with America about various global and regional issues. We have no negotiations on bilateral issues,” he said.
However, Khamenei has said in the past that the door to other issues could open should the U.S. carry out its obligations under the deal in good faith.
Prominent analyst Davoud Hermidas Bavand said Khamenei’s remarks were primarily for domestic consumption.
“Detente in Iran-U.S. relations is an inevitable consequence of the nuclear deal. Today, Khamenei sought to pacify hard-liners who are worried about rapprochment with Washington. The deal has increased Rouhani’s popularity and Khamenei wants to create a balance and boost the morale of disappointed hard-liners,” said Bavand, a former diplomat and a professor of international law at Science and Research University in Tehran.
Bavand said Iran and the U.S. now share some common interests in Afghanistan and Iraq, including over the ongoing fight against the militant Islamic State group, and that Khamenei’s carefully worded speech contains a warning to Rouhani to slow down the pace of detente with Washington.
Conservative politician Hamid Reza Taraqi said Khamenei sought to “nullify efforts by the U.S. to damage Iran’s anti-arrogance stance.”
“Americans have tried to suggest that Iran has given up its anti-U.S. stance in order to tarnish Tehran’s image in the eyes of its supporters. The leader’s remarks nullified that,” he said.
Taraqi accused Rouhani and his moderate allies of “seeking to pave the way for normalization of relations with the U.S.”
In his speech Saturday, Khamenei lauded Iran’s nuclear negotiating team for the landmark nuclear accord but said the document needs to be scrutinzed and has to go through “anticipated legal channels” to ensure that the country’s national interests are preserved.
Iran’s parliament and the Supreme National Security Council, Iran’s highest security decision-making body, are to consider the agreement in the coming days.