02/22/2014 07:19 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2014

Khamenei Is Pessimistic About Nuclear Negotiations

In a speech on February 17 Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei repeated what he had said almost a year earlier on 21 March 2013, namely, that due to the insistence by President Hassan Rouhani he has authorized the government to negotiate with the United States regarding Iran's nuclear program, but that he is not optimistic about the outcome. Khamenei added that he believes that Iran's nuclear program is only an excuse for the United States, because the U.S. is Iran's enemy and in the unlikely event that the nuclear dispute is resolved, the U.S. will begin applying pressure for other excuses, such as human rights, Iran's ballistic missile program, terrorism, etc., just as many U.S. officials insult the Iranian people and talk about such issues.

Khamenei also said that Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue the nuclear negotiations and "Iran will deliver on its promises and will not violate them," but that "the Americans are the enemy of the Islamic Revolution, and given the flag [of revolution] that you [the Iranian nation] have been carrying, their enmity will not subside."

The Supreme Leader said that the U.S. talking about violations of human rights in Iran is "shameless," because "the U.S. government itself is the greatest violator of human rights worldwide by starting various wars [such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere], supporting dictators, supporting Israel's state-sponsored terrorism, and genocide." To prove his claim about the negotiations with the U.S. being pointless, Khamenei constantly reminds the people of what various U.S. officials have been saying about the continuation of the crippling sanctions imposed on Iran, the military option being still on the table, bringing up issues that have nothing to do with Iran's nuclear program, and lack of recognition so far of Iran's fundamental right to enrich uranium on its soil. He also reminds the people of the CIA-sponsored coup of 1953 against the government of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, and U.S. support for Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his regime. In his speech Khamenei then warned that "no one should try to put make up on the U.S. 'face' to hide its wrongdoing, violence, and scaremongering."

Despite Khamenei's speech, the new round of negotiations between Iran and P5+1 just concluded in Vienna, Austria, where the two sides announced agreement over the framework within which the negotiations for a comprehensive and permanent solution to the nuclear dispute will proceed.
Khamenei's hardline supporters believe that his analysis of the situation is correct. Even though the Supreme Leader has been wrong on so many occasions, particularly his absolute support for the former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's catastrophic policies, his errors has not persuaded his hardliner supporters to reconsider their extremist ideological views. Thus, what they do is changing facts about the world in order to prove their leader right. Let me give three examples:

One is the infamous Chain Murders of the 1990s that was revealed by Iranian journalists (including the author). To rescue Iran's Ministry of Intelligence, whose agents were the main culprits in the murders, Khamenei declared that foreign powers' spies had committed the crimes. No one believed the Supreme Leader. Thus, to prove him right, a group of three led by Javad Zadeh, a ministry of intelligence agent, tortured the wife of Saeed Emami, the leader of the gang that had committed the crimes, in order to force her to "confess" that Emami was a foreign power agent. Emami himself was murdered in jail; a video about torture of his wife was leaked. Later on, the people who had been tortured told the Majles [the Iranian Parliament] about the tortures that they had suffered.
The second example is regarding what Khamenei calls the "West's cultural invasion," the "West cultural attack," and a "cultural NATO [meaning the NATO alliance]," which he has been preaching ever since he was appointed the Supreme Leader in 1989. He has been claiming that, using an organization similar to NATO and the mass media, the U.S. has been attacking Iran culturally. In a speech on 21 April 2000 Khamenei referred to the reformist and critical press as the "enemy's base" in which Israeli and the American agent have penetrated. After his speech, Iran's judiciary closed over one hundred newspapers, magazines and other publications, arrested a number of journalists, and exerted pressure on them to prove that Khamenei was correct. Only the old veteran journalist Siamak Pourzand "confessed" in jail, and Iran's national television broadcast his "confessions." In another speech on 27 July 2002, Khamenei used the "confession" as the "evidence" and said, "You have seen examples of it [what I have warned you about], and heard it in mass media; they [journalists] are the enemy's agents. This is what I have been warning the officials in charge of cultural affairs for the past seven, eight years, and have been telling them the enemy's fingers are trying to take over our nation's culture. Thus, we see that these confessions reveal the truth."

Thus, journalists and artists are arrested and put under physical and psychological torture in order to prove Khamenei's claims about Iran's being attacked culturally by the West.
The third example is what happened after the disputed presidential elections of June 2009 and the birth of the Green Movement. Thus, once again, to prove Khamenei right, many political prisoners were tortured severely to force them "confess" to what Khamenei had claimed. Some of them also confessed in nationally broadcast television programs.

And, now, Khamenei has proclaimed the uselessness of the nuclear negotiations. Thus, if the hard-liners try to prove him right, they have to attack the Rouhani administration and his nuclear negotiation team. Thus, Khamenei's speech has opened the door for weakening the Rouhani administration.

On February 19 Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the IRGC chief, accused the Rouhani administration of hypocrisy, saying, "Some do not reveal their true face [intentions] and do what they want; this is hypocrisy." Regarding the nuclear negotiations, General Jafari said, "For now we must be silent and keep our complaints to ourselves," indicating his unhappiness over the negotiations. Similar to Khamenei, General Jafari also said, "We cannot be optimistic about the U.S. It appears that we run into problems in any negotiations [with the U.S.], although I hope this is not true."

Iran's nuclear program is its most important national security issue because on the one hand it has caused the imposition of the "most crippling economic sanctions in history" on Iran, and it will expose the country to possible military attacks by Israel and the U.S., if the negotiations fail. The negotiations are for proving that Iran's program is peaceful, so that the economic sanctions can be lifted. The Rouhani administration has been trying to improve the relations with Western powers and possibly normalize the relations with the U.S. To President Rouhani, the normalization will be the ultimate fruit of the final nuclear accord and the end of the hostilities between the two countries.

Thus, negotiations about such a critical and vital issue must be done with the full support of the power structure in Iran. The Supreme Leader cannot view President Rouhani and his administration as his puppets, such that he can withdraw his support for them. It is neither rational nor respectful of the Iranian diplomats to dispatch them to negotiations that one believes to be doomed even before they have begun.

Of course, one must also recognize that Khamenei is interested in a compromise whereby Iran proves the peaceful nature of its nuclear program in return for lifting of the economic sanctions and recognition of Iran's rights for enriching uranium on its soil. But, he is predicting that, under pressure by Israel, the U.S. will not agree to such a compromise, and will bring up new issues, such as Iran's ballistic missile program. So, what he is saying to his nation is that he supports the negotiations, Iran will negotiate and will accept any method for proving the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, but the U.S. will continue its double standards when it comes to Iran. Thus, the nation must decide whether Iran or the U.S. is responsible, if the negotiations fail.