The Supreme Leader’s Red Lines

Khamenei has weighed in on nuclear negotiations:

Khamenei’s declaration that any nuclear deal preserve Tehran’s right to enrich uranium on an industrial scale to fuel its long-term energy needs echoes what Iranian negotiators have said throughout the talks, which began in earnest last year and are currently continuing in Vienna. Still, by drawing a red line in public, a rarity for Iran’s top cleric, Khamenei signaled that Tehran wasn’t prepared to accede to Western demands that it sharply curtail its enrichment activities. The United States and its allies have long accused Tehran of trying to produce weapons-grade uranium to build a weapon, a charge Khamenei has repeatedly denied.

The remarks come amid signs of disunity among big-power diplomats as talks near a self-imposed July 20 deadline for a deal between Iran and the permanent five members of the Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States — plus Germany, which are negotiating collectively as the P5+1.

Reza HaghighatNejad unpacks Khamenei’s comments:

In recent months Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has sternly insisted on keeping the negotiating details confidential. He told MPs that he would not disclose such information even if he were to face impeachment. Now the Supreme Leader has pulled the rug from under him in a public speech.

It is clear Khamenei wants to leave no doubt about his regime’s red lines in the negotiations. The result is that now the Iranian negotiators have less room to maneuver vis-à-vis their Western counterparts.

Abbas Araghchi, spokesman for the Iranian team, tried to emphasize the supportive moments in  Khamenei’s speech. “The trust of the Leader is our greatest asset and encourages us,” he Tweeted. “We assure him and all Iranians that we would not retreat from any of our nuclear rights.”

Maybe it’s brinksmanship in the diplomatic end-game – or a sign that we will definitely have to enter an extended period for negotiations. But you can hardly take this as an encouraging sign, can you?