In comments posted on the Iranian foreign ministry website, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi noted that Tehran and Washington have held talks on specific topics such as Afghanistan and Iraq, but that only Khamenei could give the go-ahead for any substantive bilateral dialogue.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States have already held talks about specific issues and there is no impediment to the repetition of them,” he said, “but the decision about comprehensive political negotiations falls within the ambit of the supreme leader.”
Salehi was reacting to comments by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in an address to a Mideast forum in Washington on Friday spoke at length about Iran, describing it as the hardest “among a lot of very hard problems” she has faced as America’s top diplomat.
“We have, from the very beginning, made it clear to the Iranians we are open to a bilateral discussion. And we have tried. You know the president tried to reach out,” she said. “So far there has not yet been any meeting of the minds on that.”
Clinton added that the U.S. had – in the context of multilateral nuclear discussions known as the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany) – sought to open bilateral talks with the Iranians, “and they’ve not been willing to do so.”
“Right now, we’re working on the P5+1 and making our willingness known that we’re ready to have a bilateral discussion, if they’re ever ready to engage,” she said.
Shortly after taking office, President Obama offered to engage with Iranian leaders who were willing to “unclench their fist,” and in a March 2009 Nowruz (Persian new year) message called for “a new beginning” in relations.
After a year marked by a disputed presidential election in Tehran, a violent crackdown and continuing nuclear defiance, Obama in a 2010 Nowruz message told the regime again that “our offer of comprehensive diplomatic contacts and dialogue stands.”
Obama’s messages on Nowruz 2011 and 2012 made no reference to engagement, and last January the administration denied Iranian claims that Obama had sent Khamenei a letter calling for bilateral talks.
Last October, the New York Times reported that Iran and the U.S. had agreed in principle to direct talks after the presidential election. Iran denied the report and the White House said no final agreement on talks had been reached, while adding it remained open to them.
Notwithstanding Salehi’s latest remarks, if some of Khamenei’s recent speeches are a fair reflection, he is in no hurry to take up any offer to engage.
“The leaders of global arrogance, such as the American government which supports the crimes of the brutal Zionists, shamelessly claim that they defend human rights and they put themselves in the position of prosecutors of other peoples and countries,” Khamenei told a Nov. 21 meeting of the Basij, a militia notorious for its role in the violent 2009 post-election crackdown.
A week earlier, addressing a Tehran gathering of Iranian academics known as the “strategic thoughts forum,” the supreme leader called the realities of American and other western societies “bad, bitter, ugly and sometimes disgusting,”
“America is extremely good at distorting realities, at presenting black as white and white as black,” he said.
“There is no justice. There is discrimination and bullying. There is warmongering in the area of global issues. In order to fill the pockets of weapons manufacturing companies and prevent them from going bankrupt, they start a war between two peoples. They promote fear of the Islamic Republic among the Persian Gulf states, just to sell them Phantoms and Mirages. They constantly do these things.”
Khamenei also commented on homosexuality in the West, suggesting that incest will be the next sexual taboo to be abandoned.
“If we assume that homosexual activities and cohabitation are permissible because they satisfy human desires, then it is possible that there are a number of people who desire incest,” he said. “There is no reason why this should not be the case – that is to say, there is no logical reason. Presumably, these limitations and principles will also be removed in the future.”
And in a speech to students at the end of October, Khamenei spoke at length about the decades-long struggle between America and Iran, saying the latter has been victorious because the U.S. not only failed in undermining the 1979 Islamic revolution but today witnesses the growth of “anti-American sentiments” among Arabs in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere.
“Today there is no government in the world that is as hated as the American government,” he said. “If the regional governments, as well as other governments outside the region, find the courage to specify a day for expressing hatred towards the American government and tell their people to take to the streets on that day, the demonstration that will be held will be the largest in history.
“This is America’s status in the world.”