The nuclear deal is still fresh, so naturally, the reactions are still pouring in. After we heard from US President Barack Obama last week, it’s time to hear from some Iranian leaders – namely, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who throughout the lengthy talks consistently appeared to be undermining them, and at times seemed on the verge of thwarting the accord altogether with his vitriolic critiques of “aggressive” Obama or “dictatorial” Washington.
So what did Khamenei have to say now, you ask? Well, it was strikingly similar to his utterances from the pre-deal era: in 2013, the powerful cleric announced that the negotiations with the US “would solve nothing”; now, in a televised speech, he declared the historic agreement would not change Tehran’s policy toward Washington.
While most outlets – among them The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal – reported Khamenei’s speech with headlines highlighting the enduring hostility toward “the United States and its allies”, indicating he had not backed down from his staunch opposition to the US, Thomas Erdbrink of The New York Times chose a different angle, claiming that the Ayatollah endorsed the deal, while at the same time admitting that the speech fell short of a full endorsement.
However, much of the coverage of Khamenei’s speech (on AFP, The Independent, The Los Angeles Times, and NBC, among others) did lead with the more belligerent portions of his speech, which do not seem to allow for positive regional assessments.
Prince Bandar’s letter to the Washington Post titled “Why the Iran agreement is worse than the US deal with North Korea”, stating the “the deal will wreak havoc in the ME”, and that Arab states will have to mobilize as they have lost faith in Washington, sparked the regional debate. The Wall Street Journal reported about President Obama’s attempts to sell the Iran deal to Arab allies, stating “my hope is that building on this deal, we can continue to have conversation with Iran, that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, but we’re not counting on that”. Perhaps the “hopes” need a reality check.
Judging by Khamenei’s aggressive speech, perhaps it would be wise not to “count on that”.