Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday accused US President Joe Biden of making the same demands as his predecessor Donald Trump in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
He spoke after US President Joe Biden’s comments to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday that “other options” are available if diplomacy with Iran fails.
“America’s current administration is no different from the previous one, because what it demands from Iran on the nuclear issue is different in words, but the same thing that Trump demanded,” Khamenei was quoted by his official website as saying.
“The Americans truly have no shame on the nuclear issue, and even though they withdrew from the JCPOA… they now talk in a way and make demands as if it was [Iran] that withdrew,” he added, referring to the deal by its official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Khamenei made the remarks at a meeting with President Ebrahim Raisi’s newly formed cabinet.
Earlier a top Iranian official said that Biden’s comments constitute “an illegal threat to another country” and give Tehran the “right to reciprocal response.”
Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and a leading adviser to Khamenei, tweeted his message in Persian, Arabic, English and Hebrew.
“The first meeting between [Israeli Prime Minister Naftali] #Bennett and #Biden and the emphasis on using ‘Other Options’ against #Iran, while being an illegal threat to another country, establishes the Islamic Republic of Iran’s right to reciprocal response to ‘Available Options,'” Shamkhani tweeted.
Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, speaks with NBC News in 2019 (video screenshot)During Bennett and Biden’s meeting in the White House on Friday, the US leader said Iran will “never” get a nuclear weapon, and that though he prefers a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with Tehran, there are “other options” should that fail. Bennet thanked Biden for his comments.
Following the meeting, a senior Israeli official said that the atmosphere in the White House is “not optimistic” about returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
The official stressed that the fate of the agreement depends on Iran.
Bennett’s government opposes US efforts to return to the Iran nuclear agreement signed in 2015 by the Obama administration and abandoned three years later by Trump. Biden has been seeking a return to the deal, but this has looked increasingly unlikely as Iran has moved further away from its obligations and as hardline president Raisi has taken office in Tehran.
Later pressed on what was meant by other options, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined to elaborate. Israel has been pushing the US to put a “credible military threat” against Iran on the table while negotiating to curb its nuclear efforts.
Biden and his staff surprised their Israeli guests by the attention they gave to the Iranian threat and how important it was to them, the Israeli official said.
During the meeting in the White House, Bennett presented his two-pronged approach to dealing with Iran — confronting its regional activities in a quiet, multi-faceted “gray zone” campaign, and keeping Tehran permanently a year away from nuclear breakout capability.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told reporters this week that the Israeli military is developing fresh plans to strike Iran’s nuclear program in light of the Islamic Republic’s ongoing march toward the technology needed for an atomic weapon.
“The progress in the Iranian nuclear program has led the IDF to speed up its operational plans, and the defense budget that was recently approved is meant to address this,” Kohavi said, speaking to military correspondents ahead of the Jewish New Year.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a similar threat on Wednesday, telling foreign diplomats that Israel may have to take military action against Iran.
“The State of Israel has the means to act and will not hesitate to do so. I do not rule out the possibility that Israel will have to take action in the future in order to prevent a nuclear Iran,” Gantz said.
“Iran is only two months away from acquiring the materials necessary for a nuclear weapon. We do not know if the Iranian regime will be willing to sign an agreement and come back to the negotiation table and the international community must build a viable ‘Plan B’ in order to stop Iran in its tracks towards a nuclear weapon,” he added.
Though Iran is believed to be two months away from obtaining the fissile material needed for a bomb, the IDF has assessed that it would take at least several more months from then before Tehran would be capable of producing a deliverable weapon, needing that time to construct a core, perform tests and install the device inside a missile.
Lazar Berman and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.