As the June 30 deadline looms for a final nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran, the Iranian Supreme Leader is still chafing against the deal’s proposed terms.
Speaking on live television Tuesday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded that foreign sanctions on Iran be lifted as soon as an agreement is signed. He also rejected long-term restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment and stood by his vow to keep foreign inspectors out of Iranian military sites.
U.S. and Iranian officials have repeatedly clashed on those measures in the weeks since a draft deal was announced in April. (RELATED: Obama’s Big Iran Nuke Deal Is Becoming More Like A Big Disagreement)
Some Western negotiators have insisted on keeping sanctions in place until they can confirm Iranian compliance with restrictions on civilian nuclear activity. Some proposals for restricting enrichment, including the one backed by France, are for 10 years or more.
The ayatollah took to Twitter Wednesday to clarify some of his points. In a handy chart, he explained that “All economic, financial and banking sanctions, either by [the UN Security Council], US Congress or US Administration must be lifted on same day deal is signed.” (RELATED: Iran’s Supreme Leader Tweets Attacks On US, Israel)
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) June 24, 2015
Khamenei faces a prickly political landscape at home. Just as many Americans are skeptical of President Barack Obama’s willingness to trust the Islamic Republic, Iran’s so-called “hardliners” have repeatedly questioned Khamenei’s wisdom in supporting the nuclear negotiations. (RELATED: Just Who Are Those Iranian ‘Hardliners’ We Keep Hearing About?)
Iranians who oppose a deal say that it would forfeit too much of Iran’s independence to oversight by the United States and the other countries enforcing the deal, which comprise France, Germany, the U.K., China and Russia. By taking a firm stand against U.S.-backed provisions for a deal, the Supreme Leader may be trying to reassure his critics.
Or else, by staking a claim just before the finish line, Khamenei is trying to win the best possible outcome for an Iranian side that will be forced to make plenty of concessions. As political risk consultant Cliff Kupchan told The New York Times Wednesday, “this is the last time to get the best possible deal.”
With a White House eager to keep Iran at the negotiating table, and an Iranian leadership careful of seeing its ego bruised, Khamenei might just get everything he’s bargaining for.
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