Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's highest authority, delivered his most significant speech regarding the United States' withdrawal from the nuclear deal between Iran and the five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
In the May 23 speech, delivered two days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made 12 demands of Iran, Khamenei presented his own list of conditions for Europe to meet if Iran is to stick with the nuclear deal, adding that otherwise Iran would resume its nuclear activities. The conditions include Europe issuing a condemnation of the United States for breaking the agreement, not raising the issue of Iran’s missile capabilities, opposing US sanctions against Iran and guaranteeing oil sales and banking transactions between Iran and Europe.
Khamenei’s speech was the top story for Iranian news agencies and newspapers May 24. Kayhan chose an excerpt from Khamenei’s speech as its headline: “We Have No Quarrels with Europe, [but] we don’t trust [them].” Javan's headline read, “The Nuclear Deal Only under This Condition.” The Line of Hezbollah, a publication that analyzes and publishes Khamenei’s speeches, led with “Real Guarantees …”
Iranian analyst Mohammad Hassan Ghadriabianeh said that according to Khamenei’s comments, it is not enough that the Europeans simply remain signatories to the nuclear deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Since Iran has remained committed to its end of the agreement by restricting its nuclear capabilities, Europe must indemnify Iran against any potential US sanctions against it.
The Reformist parliamentarian Haidar-Ali Abedi said that while the Europeans may want to remain in the JCPOA, they may not be able to withstand the pressure from the United States. “If the Europeans had any honor, they would be embarrassed,” he said, given President Donald Trump's repeated accusations that Europe had been tricked in the deal.
Abedi said that if Europe wants to stick with the JCPOA, Iran must assess the advantages and disadvantages. He added, however, that if Europe ultimately decides against maintaining the agreement, a collective decision must be made by the Supreme National Security Council, President Hassan Rouhani's administration and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the best path forward.
“The West cannot be trusted.” That, according to the conservative Jahan News, was the primary takeaway from Khamenei’s speech. “If our politicians had acted upon the words of the supreme leader, today this bitter experience would not have occurred,” it wrote. “Historical experience demonstrates that under no conditions can America or the West be trusted.” It continued that once this lesson is learned, action for the “progress of the country can be taken.”
An article published by the Tasnim News Agency outlined “40 important points” from Khamenei’s speech, organizing them under various subheadings. Under “Enmity with America,” the article quoted Khamenei, stating, “Since the beginning of the revolution, the American regime has been the primary enemy of the Iranian nation.” Another point stressed that the experience of the nuclear negotiations finally put to rest “the dream” of trying to negotiate or cooperate with the United States. It said the negotiations demonstrated that the primary problem the United States had with Iran was never its nuclear program or even the country’s missile program, but “the principles of the Islamic system and the Iranian nation … for spreading the spirit of resistance in the region and opposition to American oppression.”
Potentially most alarming for the future is the article's emphasis on this point made by Khamenei: “The path to prevent America’s enmity is not to be flexible and compromise.” Going forward, the article stated, Iranian “officials, managers and media” should refrain from sowing division and attacking one another regarding the nuclear deal and instead show unity and speak with one voice. Further quoting Khamenei’s speech, the article asserted that the leading European states, in particular France and Great Britain, have shown that they side with America “on the most sensitive issues.”
The most important points from Khamenei’s speech related to economics, particularly guarantees from Europe regarding the sale of oil and working around sanctions. Khamenei had previously stated that the US Treasury has been turned into a “war room” against Iran, given its role in applying sanctions against countries that do business with Iran, and the article stressed that Iran’s Foreign Ministry must set up its own war room as a counterweight, though it was not clear on the details of how that would work.