Khamenei: Any Sanctions Will Violate Nuclear Deal and End Iran’s Compliance

Patrick Goodenough | October 22, 2015 | 4:12am EDT
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Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hasan Rouhani. (Photo: Office of the Supreme Leader)

( – Iran will consider any sanctions imposed upon it during the next eight years, including those relating to human rights and terrorism concerns, to be a violation of the nuclear agreement and will as a result stop complying with the deal, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared Wednesday.

In a letter to President Hasan Rouhani, Khamenei delivered his verdict on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached last July between Iran, the U.S. and five other powers, and laid down his conditions for acceptance.

“During the eight-year period imposition of any sanctions at any level and under any pretexts (including the repeated and fabricated pretexts of terrorism and human rights) by any of the negotiating countries [the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany] will be considered a violation of the JCPOA,” he wrote.

This would therefore oblige the government to “stop JCPOA activities,” he added.

Khamenei’s condition appears to be a direct contradiction of the Obama administration’s insistence that non-nuclear sanctions will not be lifted under the JCPOA.

A White House document on the key provisions of the deal adds a parenthetical note saying. “Note: U.S. statutory sanctions focused on Iran’s support for terrorism, human rights abuses, and missile activities will remain in effect and continue to be enforced.”

Speaking in Vienna on the day the agreement was reached, Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that “a number of U.S. sanctions will remain in place, including those related to terrorism, human rights, and ballistic missiles.”

Seeking congressional support for the deal, Kerry made the point again in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee nine days later, telling the panel that “U.S. sanctions related to human rights, terrorism, and ballistic missiles will remain in place.”

Another stipulation laid down by Khamenei in the letter to Rouhani is that U.S. and European Union sanctions must be terminated, not merely suspended.

He wrote that the “removal of unjust economic and financial sanctions” was Iran’s objective in entering the talks. Therefore Tehran’s compliance with the agreement would be tied to “guarantees,” including a written declaration by the American president and the E.U. “that these sanctions will be fully lifted.”

That condition appears to be at odds with the JCPOA text itself.

Paragraph 21 states that when the agreement is implemented, the U.S. “will cease the application” of the nuclear-related sanctions.

Only after eight years will the U.S. take the necessary steps to “terminate” those sanctions, the agreement says in paragraph 23.

(The eight-year period referred to in Khamenei’s letter and in the JCPOA itself began on the agreement’s formal “adoption day” on Oct. 18. Eight years after “adoption day” is “transition day,” when the International Atomic Energy Agency concludes that “all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities.” The IAEA may reach that conclusion earlier, in which case “transition day” will be brought forward. Once “transition day” is reached, Iran is allowed to begin updating some of its nuclear equipment and facilities.)

‘Boring negotiations’ and ‘flip-flopping’

Khamenei’s overall assessment of the JCPOA was not glowing. He said the agreement contains “numerous ambiguities and structural weaknesses that could inflict big damage on the present and the future of the country in the absence of meticulous and constant monitoring.”

In the letter he also underlined, again, the low regard in which he holds the U.S.

“[Y]ou must have naturally realized that the government of the United States of America, neither in the nuclear issue nor in any other issue, had been pursuing no other approach but hostility and disturbance, and is unlikely to do otherwise in the future either,” he told Rouhani.

Although President Obama had assured him in two letters that the U.S. has no intention of subverting Iran, his “open threats” of military action had laid bare America’s “real intentions,” he wrote.

“The behavior and words of the U.S. government in the nuclear issue and its prolonged and boring negotiations showed that this (nuclear issue) was also another link in their chain of hostile enmity with the Islamic Republic,” Khamenei said.

He further accused the U.S. of “flip-flopping,” failing to comply with its pledges during the negotiations, aligning “with the demands of the Zionist regime,” and “bullying diplomacy.”

All of that, he said, was “indicative of the fact that the U.S.’s deceitful involvement in the nuclear negotiations has been done not with the intention of a fair settlement, but with the ill intention of pushing ahead with its hostile objectives about the Islamic Republic.”

Towards the end of the letter, Khamenei advised Rouhani to be careful, once sanctions are lifted, to avoid an influx of American imports.

“You should also watch out so that unbridled imports would not follow the lifting of sanctions, and particularly importing any consumer materials from the U.S. must be seriously avoided,” he warned.

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