Obama “uses bullying words against Iran when he speaks to the media, but picks up a very friendly and kindly tone when he writes a letter” to Khamenei, parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani told state-run television.
The semi-official Fars news agency said Larijani blasted the U.S.’s “hypocritical attitude in and outside the nuclear talks,” referring to multilateral negotiations that enter their final days next week ahead of a Nov. 24 deadline for a comprehensive agreement.
Confirmation that Obama recently wrote to Khamenei also came from Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SCNC), who according to state television Wednesday night said that the regime has responded in the past to such letters – although he did not say specifically whether it had done so in this case.
Shamkhani, who was speaking during a meeting of SNSC directors and experts, echoed the accusations of two-facedness, Fars and other Iranian outlets reported.
“He lambasted the U.S. ruling system for adopting contradictory attitudes when writing secret friendly letters to Iran and when taking a public position, and explained that the White House apparently speaks in these two paradoxical tones for domestic consumption and to affect parties inside the U.S.”
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Obama, in a mid-October letter to the ayatollah described a “shared interest” in fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists, and indicated that any cooperation against ISIS depended on Iran reaching a nuclear agreement with the P5+1 group of world powers.
Obama subsequently declined to comment “on any communications that I have with various leaders,” and the administration reiterated its policy that it will not link the nuclear and ISIS issues in its engagement with Tehran. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Wednesday again declined to comment on the purported correspondence, or on any Iranian response to such letters.
Shamkhani said the latest Obama letter dealt mostly with the nuclear issue.
“The U.S. president has been writing letters for several years, which have in some cases received some responses,” he said.
“The U.S. president has been reminded of the Islamic Republic's clear, transparent and firm positions on the nuclear issue and told that Iran will not accept having a [uranium] enrichment program that is nominal or decorative.”
Shamkani said that if the West approaches the issue rationally a nuclear agreement can be reached. But he warned that U.S. attempts to keep “the Zionist regime” happy would place “serious barriers” in the road to a deal.
Critics of Iran, including the Israeli government and U.S. members of Congress, have repeatedly warned against any deal that will leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state. (see related story: could you link here to today’s other Iran story please? )
Obama has written letters to Khamenei in the past, although the administration has typically not commented on these at the time.
One letter was sent shortly before Iran’s disputed June 2009 presidential election, and was first reported by the Washington Times that month.
When then-White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the letter he would not “confirm or deny anything around this,” but also noted that “the administration has indicated a willingness to talk with the leadership in Iran and have sought to communicate with the Iranian people in a variety of ways.”
Khamenei himself referred indirectly to the letter, saying during a sermon at Tehran University that the U.S. administration was voicing support for Iranian street protests – underway at the time in response to the election dispute – while at the same time “they write letters to say we’re ready to have ties, that we respect the Islamic Republic … which one should we believe?”
In January 2012 the administration denied Iranian claims that Obama had sent Khamenei a letter calling for bilateral talks.