In his latest speech to an Iranian audience, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threw cold water on any possibility of renegotiating the nuclear deal with the United States under the current campaign of pressure from the White House.
In response to calls that Iran must “return to the negotiating table,” as US national security adviser John Bolton has previously stated, Khamenei said, “Those who say Iran must return to the negotiating table mean that Iran must negotiate with America, because we don’t have problems with other countries — and we negotiate with Europeans and others.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had previously stated that Iran would talk to the United States if it re-enters the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which it unilaterally exited a year ago.
Khamenei added, “We will not negotiate on any topic, and ‘issues of honor and the fundamentals of the revolution,’ as well as issues of defense, cannot be topics of negotiations.” He said negotiations on topics such as defense mean "they will want something and we will say no." US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had previously published a list of 12 demands, including that Iran limit its missile program — which Iran considers a deterrent and for defense purposes.
On negotiating with the United States, Khamenei said, “Just as it has been said before, not negotiating with America is for these reasons: One, there is no use and it is detrimental.” He continued, “The Americans, in order to reach their objective, have one strategy and one tactic. The strategy is pressure in order to wear out their opposing side, then they use negotiations as complementary pressure until they reach their objectives.”
Khamenei added, “These negotiations are not real, and they are a tool.” He said Iran should instead use “the levels of pressure correctly to make American pressure smaller or eliminate it.” The idea that sanctions provide an “opportunity” is an old one and was hotly debated in the 2013 presidential election and proposed by conservative candidate Saeed Jalili. Khamenei added, “If we fall for the deception of an invitation of negotiating with the Americans and not using the levers of pressure, the result will be certain loss.”
One instance of Iran using the levers of pressure correctly is the recent decision by the Supreme National Security Council to reduce its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Khamenei warned that Iran should not delay in responding to such pressures. Some have speculated that Iran made the announcements of reducing its nuclear commitments in order to pressure Europe to secure safe financial transactions to make sure that despite the US exit the remaining parties continue to abide by the JCPOA.
On the question of nuclear weapons, Khamenei said, “The production of weapons of mass destruction even merely for the purpose of storing is wrong and irrational because it imposes heavy costs on a country and it has no use.” He continued, “Therefore, from a fundamental perspective, we are opposed to producing weapons of mass destruction. But we need nuclear enrichment because it is one of the needs of the future of the country, and if we do not increase our abilities in this field, in 10 years we will have to start from zero.”
Khamenei also said the previous US administration only “appeared” different than the current administration. Either way, it was under Barack Obama that Secretary of State John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif broke a taboo in direct Iran-US talks, which ultimately led to the signing of the nuclear deal between Iran, the United States, and the five permanent members of United National Security Council plus Germany and the European Union. Khamenei’s latest speech, however, is the clearest sign that after the unilateral US exit of that deal, Iran will not renegotiate another deal anytime soon.
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