The United States remains the “No. 1 enemy” of Iran despite the nuclear agreement, an influential Iranian cleric said Tuesday, joining a chorus of hard-liners in the Islamic Republic seeking to quash hints of detente.
Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, president of the Iranian Assembly of Experts, said the nuclear deal brokered with six world powers, led by the US, would not lead to a warming of ties with Washington.
“The Islamic Republic will always see the United States as its first enemy,” he told a ceremony ahead of the assembly’s annual conference, which will take place on Wednesday.
Comprising 86 elected religious leaders, the assembly is considered one of the most powerful bodies in the country, with the ability to appoint or a depose a supreme leader.
“The United States, and behind them Israel, are the source of all plots and they set the Middle East on fire to protect Israel,” Yazdi said, referring to the situation in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
A number of Western countries have made moves to repair strained relations with Iran in the wake of the deal, including Britain, which last month re-opened its embassy in the country.
However the US, which cut ties with Iran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution, has largely shied away from publicly moving closer to Tehran, despite what some analysts see as a softening of its rhetoric toward America.
On Sunday, Iran sentenced two people to 10 years in prison for spying on behalf of the US, and late last month Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in a speech that the “real enemies” of Iran remained the US and Israel.
On Monday, Iran’s Parliament speaker said that he supported the nuclear deal with world powers aimed at reining in Tehran’s efforts to build a bomb.
Ali Larijani, formerly Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, didn’t mention a possible vote. But he reiterated that his country’s nuclear program was peaceful and said in the negotiations “Iran once again showed that bullying doesn’t work anymore.”
Larijani was also critical of “warmongering under the pretext of expanding democracy,” saying this led to several wars against “the oppressed people of Palestine and the military atrocities of the Zionist regime.”
Taking aim at the United States and its allies without naming any country, Larijani was also critical of “governments that are trying to enforce democracy “with bombs and machine guns” that have led to “occupation and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the war in Yemen and armed conflicts in Syria.”
AP and AFP contributed to this report.