Towards the end of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the mullahs’ negotiators talked about the possibility of cooperating strategically with the U.S. on regional matters, in the event the sides reached a deal. Even “Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei joined in, declaring that “if the other side avoids its ambiguity in the talks, it’ll be an experience showing it’s possible to negotiate with them on other issues.”
This was an enticing prospect to dangle before Barack Obama. For him, the hope of U.S.-Iran cooperation on “other issues” has always been a major incentive for reaching a deal.
But now that the deal has been reached, the mullahs have changed their tune. Last Friday, Khamenei threw cold water on the idea of cooperating with the U.S., making it clear that Iran will continue to be our deadly adversary. Khamenei stated:
Our policy toward the arrogant U.S. government won’t change at all. We have no negotiations with America about various global and regional issues. We have no negotiations on bilateral issues.
We will always support the oppressed Palestinian nation, Yemen, Syrian government and people, Iraq, and oppressed Bahraini people, and also the honest fighters of Lebanon and Palestine.
Khamenei also reiterated Iran’s support for Hezbollah:
Americans can support the child-killing Zionist government, and call Hezbollah terrorist? How can one interact, negotiate, or come to an agreement with such a policy?
The instinct of the liberal foreign policy establishment in cases like this is to dismiss such talk as being for domestic political consumption. But John Kerry knows the Iranian regime is serious and, fearful of being made to look like an idiot when Iran makes good on Khamenei’s promises, he declined to take the liberal default position.
Instead, though raising the possibility that the statement might not reflect policy, Kerry stated: “I don’t know how to interpret it at this point in time, except to take it at face value, that that’s his policy.”
It’s encouraging to see Kerry taking what the “Supreme Leader” says at face value. Unfortunately, it’s also late in the day.
Kerry went on to state that if Khamenei’s statement really is Iran’s policy, “it’s very disturbing, it’s very troubling.”
It is, to be sure. But Kerry acts like Khamenei’s statement came out of the blue. Absurd!
As noted, Iran forbore to some extent on such pronouncements as the parties to the nuclear negotiations closed in on an agreement. But how could Kerry have believed that this obvious negotiating tactic reflected a change in Iran’s fundamental regional aims?
To view Khamenei’s statements on Iran’s regional policy as disturbing is like being disturbed by feeding habits of sharks. What’s disturbing here is the combination of naivety and wishful thinking that led the Obama administration to reach this agreement with Iran.