Misinterpretation of Ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks on nuclear negotiations

June 29, 2015

In recent days, a majority of Western media outlets and commentators have misinterpreted Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s speech on Tuesday, portraying it as a clear-cut and evident dissatisfaction with a nuclear agreement.

In fact, the West and critics of the Iran deal have wrongly interpreted the Leader’s remarks as new “red lines” now that Iran and P5+1 group are meeting in Vienna with just a few days to the June 30 deadline.
Contrary to Western media reports, Ayatollah Khamenei once again reiterated Iran’s position on nuclear research capabilities, limits of international inspectors examining military sites as well as the mechanism and timetable of lifting of economic sanctions.
The Supreme Leader’s top priority is irrefutably aimed at protecting the country’s rights and sovereignty as well as safeguarding the interests of its people and not re-drawing “red lines” and opposing a fair and a mutually acceptable agreement. His remarks were meant neither to calm Iran’s hardliners, nor to strengthen the negotiating team’s bargaining position or to appear at odds with the interim agreement secured in Lausanne on April 2 with P5+1.
His comments were in fact meant to demonstrate the long-term and strategic interest of the Islamic Republic of Iran but more importantly to reflect the collective and exhaustive viewpoint of the Iranian society at large. Having led the country for more than two decades through the heydays and misfortunes alike, Ayatollah Khamenei and his words represent the all-inclusive opinion of complex and multi-layered society with all the civil, political and security pillars taken into account. And that opinion has been consistent as long as the current negotiations have continued.
It is true that negotiating teams are seeking a formula that would ensure peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, therefore drawing an agreement that would set out the scope of the country’s nuclear program, codifying an inspection regime and dealing with the timetable for lifting economic sanctions. Contrary to the mainstream reaction in the Western world, Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech is not a deal breaker, but should be viewed as a true political barometer to test the viability of these negotiations in its final days.
He has repeatedly said throughout the negotiations that Iran had always been willing to give something in return for a lifting of sanctions, provided that Iran’s nuclear industry is rightfully continued and preserved. In doing so Ayatollah Khamenei also referred to Iran’s past readiness to compromise, and stressed that the final draft must not leave any room for obtaining further concessions after signing an agreement. Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech was an insistence on the importance of a fair deal, a deal that would constitute a permanent agreement and contribute to the safety and security of the region without undermining the rights of Iran.
The Supreme Leader explicitly told critics of the deal that he welcomes constructive criticism, which could be indeed helpful. Domestic critics of current negotiations were also reminded by the Leader that “it is easier to criticize than to take action”. Let’s be clear, Ayatollah Khamenei’s statements are not part of a classic Iranian pre-talks gambit designed to increase the pressure on the negotiators, coming well short of closing the door on a comprehensive deal. He is merely underscoring what he stressed to Iranian officials at his Tuesday speech that “every Iranian official, while stressing the red lines, is after a sound agreement.”
It is neither the intention, nor the strategy of the Supreme Leader to maneuver for advantage before the deadline. Ayatollah Khamenei, rightly so, will not accept a nuclear deal with the P5+1, if it produces unrealistic demands aimed at violating rights of Iran.
Ayatollah Khamenei is reminding the world that if true principals and realistic boundaries are not kept in the nuclear talks, as negotiating teams are approaching the self-imposed deadline, it would turn to be a missed opportunity for the West that could have bitter consequences. There are no doubts that compromises are part of any negotiations, including this round of negotiations in Vienna, but viability of any agreement should be judged only after the text is signed, the details are made public and the provisions implemented. The West must decide whether they can live with the economic and political consequences if they sabotage this deal through unrealistic and unattainable demands.
Let’s not forget that a sustainable solution is for both sides to take confidence-building measures and to ease suspicions they have of each other. The distrust between Iran and the U.S. is of course mutual. Nevertheless, the U.S. and Iran would benefit immensely from having a positive and constructive relationship. And surely if such partnership is realized, it would contribute significantly to enhancing stability and security of the Middle East. It should not be ignored that Ayatollah Khamenei stated after the Lausanne talks that such nuclear negotiations provide an experience to test the possibility of talking on other subjects if Washington puts aside objections.
As world powers and Iran are once again back in Vienna on what seems to be the deciding round of nuclear talks, with a soft and self-imposed deadline, in order to rightly address remaining obstacles, Ayatollah Khamenei's top priority, which is safeguarding Iran’s rights, must be viewed as a realistic political roadmap in drafting an implementable comprehensive agreement between Iran and P5+1.