Iran’s supreme leader harshly denounced the United States on Thursday as negotiations to conclude an interim agreement in the Iranian nuclear dispute resumed, saying those talks illustrated what he called the hostility of Americans toward Iran and the Muslim world.
The remarks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reported by Iran’s official media, covered a range of grievances he has harbored against the United States, including what he described as U.S. hypocrisy on human rights issues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Guantánamo Bay prison, which President Barack Obama had promised to close.
Khamenei also reiterated his contention that the U.S.-led economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program had no relevance to the progress that has been made in the negotiations with the big world powers in recent months under Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani.
“The enemies think they imposed the embargo and forced Iran to negotiate,” he said. “No! We have already said that if we see interest in particular topics, we will negotiate with this devil in order to eliminate trouble coming from it.”
The negotiations have been a blessing, he said, because “the hostility of America toward Iran, Iranians and Islam had become clear to everyone.”
The ayatollah’s remarks may have been intended to strengthen Iran’s negotiating position before a two-day round of talks in Geneva, aimed at finalizing an interim agreement reached in November in which Iran pledged to curtail some of its nuclear-related activities in return for billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief.
Khamenei may also have been anticipating that Iran will be forced to compromise and wanted to make clear to a domestic audience that regardless of what happens, he believes the U.S. government remains Iran’s most dangerous enemy.
Iranian analysts said it was also possible that Khamenei was positioning himself for a possible collapse of the negotiations, which he has backed even as hard-liners in his own constituency have expressed strong reservations.
The interim agreement is designed to last six months, to create time for a more comprehensive agreement that would settle the decade-old nuclear dispute. Western powers and Israel contend that Iran is amassing the capacity to create nuclear weapons, while Iran insists that its activities are for peaceful purposes.
Some of Khamenei’s toughest remarks Thursday were directed at U.S. criticism of Iran’s human rights record.
“Anyone may speak about human rights but Americans,” he said. “The U.S. government is the biggest violator of human rights in the world.”