Listening to Iran’s Leadership on the Deal

The Iranian leadership is talking a lot about the nuclear deal.  None of what they are saying sounds like compliance or good will.  From the Supreme Leader to the President of Iran, from the people who negotiated the deal to top clerics and military leaders, their commentary should be discouraging for deal supporters.

Ayatollah Khamenei demanded the complete elimination of sanctions, not the mere suspension of them, if Iran was going to comply with any of the provisions of the deal.  Iran’s UN delegation repeated that demand this week, stating that it intends to force a meeting with the entire P5+1 group to re-open the issue and arrange for the complete elimination of sanctions.

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 [2231], and we specified in the JCPOA that violation of the resolution [2231] 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.”

If the Supreme Leader, President, Foreign Minister, and Deputy Foreign Minister are not enough, other figures from Iran’s leadership have made similar statements about the deal and its effects.  Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami, at an Islamic service he was leading, told the congregation that “We are enemies with the US because the US supports the usurping Zionist regime.”  He added that all sanctions must be eliminated for the deal to be considered in any way binding on Iran.

Military leaders attending the Sacred Defense Day parade with President Rohuani “laughed off any notion of cooperation with the U.S.”  A top Revolutionary Guard commander said that Americans had “a totally different nature” from Iranians, while an army commander stated that the United States had created ISIS and were liars both in diplomacy and war.  The commander of the Basij militia stated that he was wary of the deal, while the overall ground forces commander stated that Americans were using “threatening language.”

Ataollah Salehi, the commander of Iran’s army, went on to say that he was unconcerned about the fact that the United States was going to provide Israel with a large weapons package as part of trying to calm regional allies in the face of the Iran Deal.  As regards Israel, he said, “We are going to destroy them, we will promise this task will be done.”

The Iranian Army’s chief of staff,  Hassan Firouzabadi, laughed at the possibility that Iran faced any threat of war from the United States.  “Bush did all he could to invade Iran but was not successful,” he said.  “If Republicans want to take Bush’s path, they cannot start a war with Iran, war will not benefit them, what Republicans say are just empty words.”

Though he spoke explicitly of Republicans, Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran expert and associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, thought that the real reason that Iran is not afraid to defy both America and the UN Security Council lies in Democratic President Barack Obama.  “Due to the extreme weakness shown by this administration, Iran’s military establishment neither fears nor respects the U.S. anymore,” Ghasseminejad said. “The U.S. faces a credibility problem in the region; the problem will be there as long as President Obama is in office.”