Slamming US and Israel, Khamenei raps aspects of Rouhani’s NY visit

10 days before new nuke talks, Iran’s supreme leader calls Americans arrogant and untrustworthy, says US government ‘seized by Zionist network’

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (AP/Office of the Supreme Leader)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (AP/Office of the Supreme Leader)

Slamming the US as arrogant, dishonest, untrustworthy, and controlled by Zionists, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saturday that “some” aspects of President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month were “not proper.”

“We support the diplomatic initiative of the government and attach importance to its activities in this trip,” Khamenei said, but he added that “some of what happened in the New York trip was not proper” — an apparent reference to Rouhani’s historic phone conversation with US President Barack Obama.

Khamenei was speaking Saturday at a ceremony of army graduates, where he said that he was pessimistic about dealing with an arrogant US regime, and vowed a harsh response to “disgusting threats.” That comment appeared aimed at Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vowed at the UN last week to stand “alone” if necessary to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons drive.

“We are pessimistic towards the Americans and do not put any trust in them,” he said, 10 days before the US and other world powers are to make a new effort to negotiate with Iran on its rogue nuclear program. “The American government is untrustworthy, supercilious and unreasonable, and breaks its promises,” he was quoted by AFP as saying.

Khamenei also said the US government was controlled by an international Zionist network.

“[The US government] is a government that is seized by the international network of Zionism, and has to put up with the usurper [Israeli] regime and show flexibility towards it,” he said.

Rouhani on Saturday retweeted a partial statement made on the Twitter account of the supreme leader:

The US and Iran, led by Rouhani, a relative moderate elected in June’s presidential elections, have seen a thawing in relations recently culminating in the 15-minute phone call between Obama and the Iranian leader last week as Rouhani was leaving New York following his UNGA speech — the first direct contact between the two countries’ presidents in 34 years.

The US broke diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980, shortly after 52 American diplomats were held hostage in the US embassy in Tehran for over a year.

The phone call was decried by the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafar, who expressed disapproval, arguing that instead of speaking by telephone with Obama, he should have waited for concrete changes in American policy.

Rouhani has also made conciliatory statements about the Holocaust and expressed a willingness to see a resolution to the nuclear dispute within three to six months — a marked break from the approach taken by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — though he insisted Iran would not halt its “peaceful” nuclear program.

Last Friday, Rouhani said that Obama struck a new tone in his UN speech that left him optimistic about easing tensions between the two countries.

Rouhani also said the recent elections that propelled him to the Iranian presidency created a “new environment” that could pave the way for better relations with the West.

Both the US and Iran agreed to fast-track negotiations and hold a substantive round of talks on October 15-16 in Geneva. Iran, hoping to get relief from punishing international sanctions as fast as possible, said it hoped a resolution could be reached within a year.

Rouhani tweeted on Thursday that any progress on talks would counter efforts by “hardliners” and “those who want to go to extremes.”

Netanyahu has warned the US and the West in general against Rouhani’s “charm offensive,” calling him a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and stressing the importance of sanctions as an obstacle to Iran’s nuclear weapons drive. The prime minister has indicated that Israel was ready to go it alone if the world failed to respond to the threat posed by Iran if it acquires a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu was back Friday from a media blitz in the US coinciding with his address to the UN General Assembly. The prime minister gave interviews to leading news outlets, including BBC Persian where he addressed the Iranian people directly, telling them that they will never get rid of the “tyrannical regime” if it gets the bomb. Netanyahu peppered his remarks with words in Farsi, saying “[Israelis] are not suckers.”

Not all Iranians approved of Rouhani’s charm offensive. Protesters in Tehran threw shoes, eggs and stones at Rouhani’s car last Saturday as he returned from the five-day trip to New York. Several dozen hardline Islamists chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” as his motorcade drew away. Others attempted to obstruct the road by praying on the pavement, The New York Times reported.

Last week, analysts and advisers close to Khamenei criticized Rouhani’s recent gestures to the West and his conciliatory statements, expressing concern that it may have gotten out of hand.

According to a report in the New York Times last month, the Iranian paper, Kayhan, which is close to Khamenei, “expressed horror over the possibility that ‘the clean hand of our president would for moments be in the bloody clench’ of Obama.”

“We need to gain something from the Americans, before we pose and smile with them,” the report quoted Hamid-Reza Taraghi, an official trusted with interpreting the speeches of Khamenei, as saying. “Of course, Mr. Rouhani also needed to convince some at home that he is not making any wild moves.”

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