Middle East

Iran’s Top Leader Distances Himself from Nuclear Pact, Which He Once Supported

By RICK GLADSTONE

 Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Monday. He accused the United States of breaching its promises in the nuclear accord reached a year ago. Credit Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader, via Associated Press    
   

Iran’s top leader distanced himself on Monday from the nuclear agreement reached with major powers a year ago, accusing the United States of failing to honor pledges in the accord and citing “the futility of negotiations with the Americans.”

In blunt remarks prominently featured in Iran’s state news media, the senior leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the talks that led to the nuclear agreement in July 2015 should be regarded as an instructive lesson on the dangers posed by interactions with governments he regards as enemies.

Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final word on Iran’s national security and other vital issues, did not suggest that he wanted to abandon the agreement, which took effect in January and sharply limited Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of many Western economic sanctions.

But his remarks indicated that he was hedging against any unraveling of the agreement. He had endorsed the accord despite many of his own public warnings of interactions with the United States.

“Today, even the diplomatic officials and those who were present in the negotiations reiterate the fact that the U.S. is breaching its promises, and while speaking softly and sweetly, is busy obstructing and damaging Iran’s economic relations with other countries,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a translation reported by Press TV, an official Iranian English-language news site.

He said the agreement, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, “once again proved the futility of negotiations with the Americans, their lack of commitment to their promises and the necessity of distrust of U.S. pledges.”

He cautioned against talks with the United States on other regional crises, presumably including the wars in Syria and Yemen and the Islamic State extremist group. The experience of the nuclear deal, he said, “tells us that taking this step would be a deadly poison and that the Americans’ remarks cannot be trusted on any issue.”

Ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks may strengthen the hard-line conservative factions in the Iranian hierarchy and their hostility toward President Hassan Rouhani, who made achieving a nuclear agreement a central objective in his 2013 election campaign.

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