The negotiations that led to that deal on July 14 were allowed to go forward on the Iranian side only because Khamenei had given his permission to the administration of President Hassan Rouhani. But this was always reported as falling well short of endorsement of those negotiations, and Khamenei repeatedly complicated the proceedings by expressing wariness to his hardline associates and imposing new red lines on the Iranian negotiators.
Even so, he declined to explicitly speak out against the deal, in favor of merely distancing himself from it. Wednesday’s development is thus unique in being his first expression of what can be described as a specific position on the issue.
But that position is far from being straightforward. The Times of Israel reports that the supreme leader endorsed the implementation of the deal but also pointed to perceived weaknesses and insisted that the Rouhani administration help to counteract them. In the letter of endorsement sent to Rouhani, the supreme leader also declared that a committee would be formed to monitor “possible breaches and deception by the other parties, in particular the US.”
In this and other ways, the message clearly expressed a tone of resistance to cooperation with the West, in keeping with Khamenei’s recent public statements, such as a speech banning any further negotiations on the assumption that Western powers had been attempting to infiltrate and damage the Islamic Republic.
JNS reported on the endorsement by emphasizing that what Khamenei gave his blessing to was not the nuclear agreement in its original form, as agreed between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Rather, it was his own amended version, which specified that the deal would be invalidated not only if Western powers imposed new sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program, but also if it merely mentioned or weighed the option for new or expanded sanctions.
The Tower further emphasized that these remarks were not limited to nuclear-related sanctions, as the deal itself was always meant to be. Rather, Khamenei indicated that Iran would balk at continued implementation if the US or Europe took steps toward enforcement regarding any aspect of Iranian affairs, including its ongoing human rights abuses and support for terrorism.
A week before Khamenei’s letter, the Iranian parliament passed the nuclear deal and some sources reported that in that case also the legislative body had amended the text of the agreement to reflect Iranian preferences and ideology, even going so far as to specify the unrelated goal of ending the Israeli nuclear program. The parliamentary amendments and the amendments by the supreme leader appear to indicate that the two are in agreement on their eagerness to abandon the deal at the first sign that it will have significant costs for the regime.
Along these lines, The Tower reports that Khamenei’s so-called endorsement also specifies that Iran’s obligations under the deal will be contingent upon “contracts” or “guarantees” being put in place first regarding such things as the alternative design of the Arak heavy water reactor and the exchange of enriched uranium for raw uranium from other countries. The actual text of the nuclear agreement imposes no such contract obligations upon Iran ahead of implementation.
Further narrowing the restrictions on a unilaterally modified agreement, Iranian parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said that Iran would issue a “harsh response” to the US in return for any delay in implementation of the planned sanctions relief. Specifically, Larijani promised the rapid construction of new nuclear plants, according to Arutz Sheva.
In this instance too, the defined restrictions go well beyond any obligations or penalties that have been laid out for Iran in the actual text of the deal. The Iranians are not held to any specific timeline for the fulfillment of their obligations under the agreement, and indeed the Western powers expect that the process will take approximately six months, much longer than the two months that Iranian officials have publicly hoped for.
The latter figure has generally been regarded as overly optimistic and now it appears as though it may be at odds with the supreme leader’s commitments, as well. The Times of Israel report that in his statement Khamenei declared that Iran will not even begin deconstruction of the core of the Arak facility or removal of enriched uranium from the country until after the International Atomic Energy Agency has given its report on the past military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program, ostensibly bringing an end to that long-debated issue.
According to the IAEA, Iran narrowly met the deadline for providing information for that probe last week. The report on the agency’s findings will be prepared over the next two months and presented in mid-December.