Iran marked the 25th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ali Khomeini last week. His successor, Ali Khamenei, a vocal opponent of President Hassan Rouhani’s policy of moderation and engagement with the West, honored the revolutionary’s legacy with a diatribe against the US – reminding us that even though certain Iranian leaders, Rouhani among them, have taken steps to distance themselves from the more belligerent aspects of the Islamic Revolution, said ideology is still alive and well among their political opponents.
“America cannot do a damn thing,” proclaimed the banner behind Khamenei as the cleric declared that US President Barack Obama had given up on the prospect of a military strike against Iran. Responding to Obama’s recent commencement speech at West Point, the cleric said Washington had realized “military attacks are … even more dangerous for the assaulting country.” He also proclaimed that “the Jihad will continue until America is no more”.
The New York Times’s Thomas Erdbrink interpreted the response as an indication that a dialogue of sorts was taking place between the US and its adversaries, linking Obama’s willingness to engage with Khamenei and his ilk to the recent release of prisoner-of-war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Considering the spiritual leader’s rant, his ultimate power, and the anti-Rouhani and anti-negotiations pamphlets that were distributed as he delivered it, we wonder just how much faith we should put in the new channels of communication that have opened between Washington and its adversaries-turned-partners in Tehran, where the “Death to America” cries have yet to die down.
If we are to believe newspaper editor Nader Karimi Juni, who was cited by the LA Times, the point Khamenei’s long speech wanted to drive home was that 25 years later, “Iran remains … the enemy of the US,” which “is and will be the enemy of Iran.”