Iran’s supreme leader bragged Wednesday that the US “can’t do a damn thing” to harm his country’s nuclear facilities. And he warned that Iran will not sit down for further talks about its nuclear program when it is being threatened with military action, citing comments from two unnamed US officials.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also urged Iranian negotiators to not suffer “humiliation” or retreat beyond the “red lines” of national interest, hours after officials in Brussels and Tehran said they would resume talks next week to nail down a definitive accord on Iran’s nuclear program.
Speaking to teachers as Iran marked its national teacher’s day, Khamenei said that negotiating under threat is “unacceptable.”
“How dare US officials threaten Iran militarily?” Khamenei asked. “Recently two US officials threatened to take military action against Iran. What does negotiation mean under ghost of a threat?”
“Negotiation under threat is meaningless and the Iranian nation does not tolerate negotiation under the shadow of threat,” he said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
“First of all, you can’t do a damn thing,” he added. “Secondly, as I had already stated during the term of the former US president, the era of hit and run is long gone and the Iranian nation will not let go anyone intending to make an aggression.”
Although media reports did not make it clear to which US officials the Iranian leader was referring, last month The Washington Post reported that Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called for a limited military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities similar to the four-day bombing campaign of Operation Desert Fox in 1998 against Iraq for failing to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions.
He may have also been referring to US Secretary of State John Kerry, who referenced the idea that the US could still strike at Iran in an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 which aired on Sunday.
In the interview, Kerry mentioned a 30,000-pound bunker-buster bomb designed to be able to penetrate Iranian nuclear facilities hidden deep underground.
“I say to every Israeli that today we have the ability to stop [the Iranians] if they decided to move quickly to a bomb. And I absolutely guarantee that in the future we will have the ability to know what they are doing, so that we can still stop them if they decided to move to a bomb,” Kerry said.
In further comments posted to Khamenei’s personal Twitter account, he claimed that the US is also under pressure to see the talks reach an agreement and called on Iranian officials to not back down on key issues.
The defiant Khamenei also claimed that “many Western officials secretly confirm Iran’s grandeur and power” and admire the country for it’s resistance to international pressure and sanctions applied over its controversial nuclear program.
Negotiations between Iran and six world powers — the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — were scheduled to resume on May 12 in Vienna, the European Union and Tehran said Tuesday.
EU negotiator Helga Schmid and her Iranian counterparts Abbas Araqhchi and Majid Takht Ravanchi “will resume their work on 12 May in Vienna,” the EU diplomatic service said in a statement.
The political leaders of the other world powers involved in the negotiations will join the talks on May 15, the statement said.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, speaking on state television in Tehran, confirmed the plans.
“We will resume negotiations next Tuesday up to Friday when the G5+1 (global powers) will join us and we will arrive at some conclusions,” said Araqhchi, who is part of an Iranian team currently taking part in expert-level talks in New York, on the margins of a UN disarmament summit.
Iran and the G5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — want to turn a framework accord reached in Switzerland on April 2 into a full agreement by June 30.
US top diplomat John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York on Monday hoping to push forward the tough nuclear negotiations as they reach the final phase.
Lower-level negotiations resumed last week in Vienna after the April 2 breakthrough in Lausanne, but little has trickled out about the discussions.
Following a marathon of negotiations in Switzerland, Iran agreed on April 2 to what US President Barack Obama called a “historic understanding… which, if fully implemented, will prevent (Iran) from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Under the agreed parameters, Iran, which denies seeking the atomic bomb, is set to scale down its nuclear program for 10 to 15 years or more, and allow closer UN inspections.
In return, the United States and five other major powers committed to lift certain sanctions that have caused the Islamic republic of 75 million people major economic pain by strangling its oil exports and financial system.
However, Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have harshly criticized the framework agreement as leaving Iran with the ability to develop nuclear weapons in the future.