Iran's Spiritual Leader Calls US Global Bully

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

( - Iran has rejected an American offer to open dialogue, while the country's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei launched a diatribe denouncing the US as an international bully over the weekend.

Khamenei, whose position in the Islamic Republic is senior to elected President Mohammed Khatami, seized on a visit by former South African President Nelson Mandela as an opportunity to rail against the United States and Israel.

He said the two countries were examples of "powers in the contemporary era that consider themselves the main rulers of the globe and interfere in any part of the world when their interests demand so and do not hesitate to commit human massacre or inflict heavy destruction on nations," the official Tehran Times reports Monday.

Khamenei did not mention last week's offer by Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk for the two countries to open a dialogue to end 20 years of animosity. But he did highlight and reject an earlier State Department warning of possible retaliation if Iran did not cooperate in the investigation into the bombing in 1996 of an American military facility in Saudi Arabia.

Iran has denied any link to the attack, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen.

Khamenei devoted much of his address during the meeting with Mandela to the "Zionist" issue, and he accused the United States and Britain of helping Israel in its "crimes." He was also critical - without naming anyone - of "treacherous Palestinian agents" whom he suggested were selling out their people by accepting less than the entire territory under dispute.

Khamenei told Mandela that the century now drawing to a close had been marked by "state terrorisms which, in its worst form, was practiced by the almighty world powers against the smaller nations ..."

The Iranian foreign ministry has also rejected the State Department's offer for engagement, saying the U.S. would first have to take "tangible, practical and meaningful steps" to compensate for its past behavior.

Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk had said Iran would have to amend some of its policies before rapprochement could take place.

Washington and Tehran have not had diplomatic relations since the embassy hostage crisis following the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Among U.S. requirements of Iran is an end to its support for Islamic terror groups, including those violently opposed to the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace process.

Over the weekend, Khamenei gave no sign of softening Iran's stance toward Israel, however.

Several Iranian commentators debated Indyk's offer over the weekend.

Azad editor Iraj Sharafzadeh said the U.S. appeared to be following a carrot-and-stick policy, and he contrasted the State Department warning with Indyk's overture.

"Such policies by Washington make it difficult for Iran to make a decision on how to react," he wrote, adding that the U.S. would need to lift sanctions against Iran as a first step.

Alireza Rajaei, the editor of another daily, Asr-e-Azadegan, said it was noteworthy Indyk had made the comments, "considering the stances of the anti-Iran Republicans in the

Writing in Tehran Times, analyst Abu Salahuddin called Indyk an "undisguised Zionist warrior" and suggested he was employing a divide-and-rule strategy, pitting moderates against extremists inside Iran.

"Having failed to undermine Iran in a straightforward, adversarial manner, the Zionist lobby may now see an ostensibly friendly embrace as the best way to foment trouble in Iran."

Salahuddin said Iran would be better off awaiting the end of the Clinton presidency. An administration under George Bush Jr. "would at least understand the basic economics of energy," he wrote, while Bill Bradley "might find a genuine intellectual and philosophical resonance with the Iranian president if he gets into the White House."

"Forget Al Gore and pray for his defeat," he concluded. "As for Martin Indyk, expect him to remain dedicated to the premise of stabbing Iran from the front or the back and nothing else."

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow