Iran’s Supreme Leader Is Skeptical of Nuclear Talks With U.S.
By THOMAS ERDBRINK
JAN. 7, 2015
TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme leader said on Wednesday that his country should find internal solutions for dealing with economic sanctions and that the United States could not be trusted to lift sanctions in the event that a nuclear agreement is reached.
The leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reiterated in a speech published on his personal website that he did not oppose the current negotiations with the United States and other world powers over Iran’s nuclear program, but said that Iranians needed to rely on “bright and realistic glimmers of hope, and not on imaginary ones.”
Those talks are scheduled to resume Jan. 18 in Geneva, Iran’s state Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Tuesday.
In his first public criticism of the government of President Hassan Rouhani since his election in 2013, Mr. Khamenei said the government should “trust the people and domestic forces.” He also asked officials to refrain from “saying unnecessary words.”
He expressed deep skepticism about the nuclear talks, warning the government that “efforts must be made to immunize Iran against the sanctions” so that “the people would not be hurt.”
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, speaking at his residence in Tehran on Wednesday. Credit Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader, via Associated Press
The reason for his pessimism, he said, was that America could not be trusted.
“The Americans boldly say that the sanctions will not be removed all at once and immediately, even if Iran compromises. Given these facts, can such an enemy be trusted?” Mr. Khamenei asked.
Tehran insists that it is pursuing a nuclear program for peaceful purposes, but the Western powers say that it is intent on building a nuclear weapon. Any deal to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions is expected to call for a gradual relaxation of sanctions, as Mr. Khamenei has suggested.
But in the United States, the Republican-held Congress has talked lately of increasing sanctions, rather than easing them, and it is expected to be highly suspicious of any deal the Obama administration reaches with Tehran.
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For his part, Mr. Khamenei has the final say on strategic matters in Iran and will ultimately decide whether to accept a nuclear compromise. The recent drop in oil prices may be a factor in his thinking, with an expected $30 billion decline in revenues worsening an already grim economic outlook.
On Sunday, Mr. Rouhani said the economy was in a bad state and that it could no longer be held hostage to an anti-American and anti-Western ideology and should be treated less ideologically. He also said that direct referendums must be organized so that ordinary Iranians could exercise more influence over important national decisions, like the nuclear deal.
Mr. Khamenei seemed to be answering those remarks, saying the nation had enjoyed great success, in contrast to the “wrong and uncalculated remarks that some make.”
In past speeches, Mr. Khamenei has referred to the nuclear negotiating team as “children of the revolution.” He did not do so on Wednesday and instead warned against trusting the enemy, which is a usual reference to the United States and its allies.
“No one should imagine that the enemy may stop its enmity and maliciousness,” Mr. Khamenei said. “Once you forget and trust the enemy, then the enemy finds the chance to pursue its goals in the country. But if you identify the enemy and you are strong, ready, arrogance will inevitably stop its enmity.”
A version of this article appears in print on January 8, 2015, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Iranian Leader Expresses Skepticism on Nuclear Talks .