Iran’s top leader said Friday that trusting or cooperating with the United States would be a big mistake, an assertion that seemed to rule out any greater collaboration despite the nuclear deal reached nearly a year ago.
The statement by the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made in a nationally televised speech, was the latest in a series of signals that Iran’s senior leadership was not likely to allow any easing of hostility toward the United States.
“We have many small and big enemies,” the ayatollah said, according to translated accounts of his speech in the Iranian media, noting that the worst are the United States, Britain and Israel, which he described as “the damned and cancerous Zionist regime.”
The backdrop for Mr. Khamenei’s speech was the 27th anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic revolution that overthrew the Western-backed shah of Iran in 1979.
Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech appeared to partly reflect Iranian frustration in not achieving any significant economic benefits so far from the nuclear agreement, which was negotiated last year and took effect in January.
Under the agreement, Iran sharply reduced its nuclear activities in exchange for the end of many American and European sanctions on the country. President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, an architect of the agreement, said it signaled a prosperous new era.
Since then, however, it has become clear that other American sanctions on Iran, unaffected by the nuclear agreement, have still dissuaded many international companies from risking business with Iran.
Moreover, the Iranians have been infuriated by a United States Supreme Court ruling in April that allowed the use of nearly $2 billion in impounded Iranian bank funds to pay American victims of terrorist attacks overseas.
Doubts also have increased about the longevity of the nuclear agreement ahead of the presidential elections in the United States. While Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has expressed support for the agreement, the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, has suggested he would renounce it.
Iran’s experience in the nuclear negotiations, Ayatollah Khamenei said in the speech, showed that “the U.S. will never stop its destructive role.”
Ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks came as both the United States and Iran were intensifying the fight against a common enemy in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State.
Iranian-supported Shiite fighters in Iraq are heavily involved in an effort to retake the city of Falluja from the Islamic State, and American airstrikes have hit Islamic State fortifications around Falluja in recent days.
But Ayatollah Khamenei appeared to dismiss any possibility of greater coordination with the Americans, exhorting Iranians not to be lulled into what he called “the enemy’s deceptive plots to entangle Iran in its projects.”
His speech came as other signs of an anti-American stance inside Iran have hardened, dimming expectations that victories by Iranian candidates leaning toward reform in the February elections would augur less hostility.
Last Tuesday, a leading conservative, Ali Larijani, was re-elected speaker of Iran’s Parliament, denying reformers a post many thought they should have won.
A week earlier, an Iranian council known as the Assembly of Experts, which is authorized to select a new supreme leader if necessary, chose an 89-year-old hard-line cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, as its chairman.
(via NY Times)