The Supreme Leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Khamanei, has shared his opinion on the most recent round of negotiations for the first time via his twitter account and in a speech quoted on his website. As the New York Times reports:
Meeting on Tuesday with Muslim clerics in Tehran, the Iranian capital, Ayatollah Khamenei dismissed the diplomatic and economic pressure that world powers had brought to bear on his country over its nuclear ambitions.
“In the nuclear issue, America and colonial European countries got together and did their best to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees, but they could not do so — and they will not be able to do so,” his personal website quoted him as saying.
In a series of posts on a Twitter account used by his office, Ayatollah Khamenei accused the West of meddling in the Middle East and using Sunni militant groups to thwart the Arab Spring uprisings with intra-Muslim infighting, “in line with arrogant goals.” The Iranian authorities often use the term “arrogant powers” as shorthand for the United States and its allies.
Insofar as the Ayatollah thinks that the West’s economic and diplomatic levers can’t bring Iran to heel, he’s in unusual agreement with two of Iran’s most bitter foes: Israel and Israel’s bi-partisan supporters in the U.S. Senate. The Washington Post quotes an interview given by Israel’s Intelligence Minister, Yuval Steinitz, saying: “The pressure on Iran was strong, but not enough. You have to increase the economic pressure to get better results.” While a number of Senators stopped short of immediately demanding new sanctions when negotiations were extended on Monday, these new comments from Netanyahu’s government have emboldened what the Post calls a “a bipartisan juggernaut of senior senators” to push for new sanctions against Iran.
The odd men out in this consensus—those who think that further rounds of negotiations will yield a viable result—are the Obama Administration and allied Western European diplomats. The Wall Street Journal quotes French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius: “On the question of limiting [Iran’s] enriching capacity—very complicated discussions—I found there had been a certain movement…There is a will to find an agreement I hadn’t felt in the past.” The White House, for its part, is launching a “full court press” against new sanctions in talks with the Senatorial “juggernaut” and interest groups in an effort to keep this round of talks alive.
Until we actually see the content of an Iranian nuclear deal it’s impossible to know whether granting Iran a deadline extension will have been worth it, or whether we’ve been played by the Iranians for another seven months of extra sanctions relief. It’s possible that this is all worth it for a comprehensive deal, but when the Israelis and the Ayatollah are in agreement that Iran is the stronger party in these talks, it’s certainly cause for concern.