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Iran conservatives see defiance in Khamenei speech

While most Iranian media outlets viewed the comments by Iran's supreme leader in a positive light, conservatives in the country are focusing on his comments in which he took a firm stand.
EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a sermon during Friday prayers at Tehran University June 19, 2009. Khamenei on Friday demanded an end to street protests that have shaken the country since a disputed presidential election a week ago and said any bloodshed would be their leaders' fault.   REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl (IRAN POLITICS ELECTIONS RELIGI

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on Iran’s nuclear program, made headlines in the Western and Iranian media when he announced that he would agree to a “good” nuclear deal. Ayatollah Khamenei has always supported the negotiation process in principle, although he has tended to warn that he is not optimistic about working with the United States. But his Feb. 8 speech in front of air force personnel appeared to contain some of his most optimistic statements so far in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1).

As usual, when the supreme leader makes headline-grabbing comments, Iranian officials and media rushed to interpret him through the lens of their particular biases.

Kayhan newspaper, whose editor is chosen by the supreme leader’s office, omitted the part of the speech in which Ayatollah Khamenei discussed the concessions Iran has made up to this point in the two interim deals between Iran and P5+1. The Kayhan article, which presented most of the speech and chose as its headline Khamenei’s comment that Iran wants a one-time comprehensive deal, omitted the following lines:

“The Iranian side has done some of the things to get closer to an agreement. It has done numerous things. It has suspended the expansion and growth of its enrichment machines. The production of uranium at 20% … was suspended, [as] the requirement of the negotiations was that this be suspended. The Arak factory is suspended for now. Fordow has been suspended for now.”

Kayhan did publish his next comments, in which he said that Iran has acted logically in all of its dealings, including in the “imposed war” (what Iran calls the Iran-Iraq war) and the signing of UN Security Council Resolution 598, which brought an end to the war.

Javan Online, which is believed to be affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in an article headlined, “The day of struggle is not the day of agreement,” ignored the parts of the speech in which Khamenei discussed the nuclear concessions Iran has made, focusing instead on the segments in which Khamenei took firm stances and stood by red lines.

The article led with Khamenei’s comments, “These words that are heard — that ‘At one point let’s agree to the general principles, then the specifics’ — I do not approve of this. With the experience we have with the opposing side, this will become a tool for consecutive excuses about the specifics. If they reach an agreement, sign the general [principles] and the specifics in one session.”

The article concluded that based on the supreme leader’s own statements, there is not a “good agreement” to be had.

An op-ed in Iran newspaper, which is run by the administration, dismissed the findings of the conservative media outlets, saying that they have been opposed to a nuclear deal from the very beginning and have pretended not to know that the nuclear negotiations have been guided by the supreme leader all along. It stated that it is acceptable to criticize the administration for the nuclear deal, but critics should at least openly admit that “Their economic and political interests are not [aligned] with the negotiations and an agreement.”

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