A word from their Supreme Leader

Omri Ceren writes to comment on the Supreme Leader’s speech today, posted here by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies:

Just making sure that you had Khamenei’s speech from today [linked above]. It was a barn-burner generally – he ruled out cooperation with the US and downplayed the prospects for a nuclear deal – but those parts won’t be any more problematic than his “Death to America” chants, which the White House has found ways to maneuver around. Instead, the headache for the Obama administration is going to come from what Khamenei said specifically about the Lausanne announcement and about post-Lausanne negotiations.

(1) Politically, the most damage will probably come from Khamenei’s declaration that nothing was agreed to at Lausanne, and that White House claims otherwise are “incorrect and contrary to the substance of the negotiations.” The statement is likely to boost increasingly vocal claims that the administration exaggerated negotiators’ progress in order to forestall Congressional action:

“There are those who ask, why has the Leader not made his positions known concerning the latest nuclear negotiations? The reason for the Leader not taking position is that there is nothing to take a position about. The officials of the state and those responsible in the nuclear field say no job is done and there is no necessity… If the question is posed to me: ‘Are you for or against the latest nuclear negotiations,’ I would answer that I’m neither in favor nor opposed to it, since nothing has happened yet… All the trouble arises when the details will be discussed… the White House, only two hours after the end of the negotiations, published a few pages, which in most regards was contrary to the realities, explaining the negotiations… they were producing a statement which was faulty, incorrect and contrary to the substance of the negotiations.”

(2) Substantively, Khamenei’s new red lines – if US negotiators ultimately accept them – would detonate the possibility of a verifiable, enforceable deal. The main areas involve sanctions and verification.

On sanctions, Khamenei declared that all sanctions would have to be lifted at the time any deal is signed. The scenario that would trump the phase-out which the White House has declared is necessary to keep the Iranians honest.

“Instant annulment of all sanction is one of the demands of our officials… This issue is very important, and the sanctions must all be completely removed on the day of the agreement… Should the removal of the sanctions be related to a process, the foundation of the negotiations would be senseless, since the goal of the negotiations was to remove the sanctions.”

On verification, he blasted inspections of military sites and ruled out any “unconventional inspection or monitoring” in general. The military sites demand would gut the IAEA’s ability to ensure the Iranians aren’t enriching at military bases like Fordow (which they’ve done) or developing nuclear warheads at military bases like Parchin (which they’ve also done). Administration officials have been talking about “managed access” to such sites, which is less than what former IAEA officials say the agency needs and less than the “snap inspections” lawmakers were told negotiators would bring home – but still more than Khamenei is willing to give. The “unconventional” demand would prohibit the unprecedented inspection regime President Obama has emphasized is necessary to prevent the Iranians from cheating:

“One must absolutely not allow infiltration of the security and defense realm of the state on the pretext of inspection[s], and the military authorities of the state are not – under any circumstance – allowed to let in foreigners to this realm under the pretext of inspection, or stop the country’s defense development… Any unconventional inspection or monitoring which would make Iran into a special case, would not be acceptable, and the monitoring must only be as monitoring regimes taking place all over the world and nothing more.”

There’s a side debate that’s been happening in the policy community about whether Rouhani and Zarif have the political muscle – even in theory, assuming they want to – to force the IRGC to open its facilities to inspections. It somewhat coalesced in Lausanne after the WSJ revealed that the US was ready to cave on forcing the Iranians to come clean on the potential military dimensions of their atomic program. Khamenei’s speech will be another check in the “no” column.

Omri provides an optimistic take. The Obama administration has helped turn the Iranian regime into an unstoppable force. In Obama the unstoppable force has met a highly movable object.

UPDATE: Tom Joscelyn has more here and Michael Rubin has more here.

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