In a televised reading of a letter from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the Supreme Leader is alleged to have “endorsed” the Iran deal. It is important to be clear-eyed about just what the Supreme Leader said. It is not an endorsement of the deal. It is an order to proceed with further provocations designed to transform the deal even more in Iran’s favor.
The biggest exception to an ‘endorsement’ is the Supreme Leader’s vast expansion of the limits on new sanctions pointed at Iran. This debate has already been raised in the US Congress, which is seeking in the Iran Policy Oversight Act to reaffirm that the limits on sanctions created by the deal attend to nuclear-related sanctions and not to sanctions pointed at state-sponsorship of terrorism or human rights abuses. Khamenei’s position is that any new sanctions by any nation on Iran will represent a violation of the JCPOA, and he has ordered his government to respond to any such sanctions by immediately ceasing cooperation with the JCPOA.
In fact, the JCPOA is not what imposes the limits on new sanctions anyway. Those limits are imposed by the UN Security Council Ruling 2231, which states:
“The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA. The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions. Iran has stated that it will treat such a re-introduction or re-imposition of the sanctions specified in Annex II, or such an imposition of new nuclear related sanctions, as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.”
Emphasis added. The Supreme Leader’s new position is that non-nuclear-related sanctions will also be considered grounds to cease performing Iran’s commitments under the JCPOA.
The irony here is that Iran has refused to accept UNSC Ruling 2231, insisting that the JCPOA is the only thing it will consider binding. The Supreme Leader is certainly not “endorsing” the UNSC ruling here. The position of the top Iranian leadership could not be clearer on its refusal to be bound by 2231, as IranTruth reported in September:
Three different top Iranian leaders have openly declared that Iran may violate the United Nations Security Council Ruling enforcing the Iran deal, Resolution 2231. President Rouhani stated that “There is nothing about the topic of missiles, defense, and weapons in the JCPOA. Whatever we have about it is in Resolution 2231… Moreover, we have formally announced that we are not committed to all the sections that appear in the resolution , and we specified in the JCPOA that violation of the resolution  does not mean violation of the JCPOA.”
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, and senior negotiator of the deal, made a separate statement that considered Iran’s obligations under the Security Council resolution nonbinding. He noted that Iran has not obeyed Security Council resolutions in the past, and felt that this one was no different. “Just as we refrained from complying with [earlier] UN Security Council resolutions,” he said, “we can do so with regards to 2231.”
His boss, Foreign Minister Javed Zarif, agrees. “There is a difference between the JCPOA and UNSCR 2231. Violating the JCPOA has consequences, while violating UNSCR 2231 has no consequences.”
Khamenei is thus directing his President to modify an agreement to which neither he nor his government consider themselves a party. Is that an “endorsement” of the deal?
As the Washington Free Beacon reports, this is not the only area in which his remarks are out of line with what the “deal” allegedly settled. Khamenei also says that “comments” about imposing new sanctions would also break the deal from his perspective, meaning that even a public debate such as the one in Congress could be considered a deal-breaker by Iran. Khamenei additionally said that Iran will not dispose of any of its uranium as required by the deal until after the IAEA final report certifies that Iran is golden on the Possible Military Dimensions of its program.
Amusingly, the Supreme Leader also said that “negotiating with America is forbidden.” He gives himself the lie with his actions. This so-called “endorsement” is really just a new negotiating position, one that abandons what the JCPOA allegedly settled in favor of a demand for vast new concessions by the United States and others.