Is Khamenei really against the nuclear deal?

Is Khamenei really against the nuclear deal?
Comment: Iran's public awaits a clear stance by their supreme leader on the nuclear deal - but there are many reasons why it will not be forthcoming, says Majid Mohammadi.
3 min read
19 Aug, 2015
Khamenei backed the diplomatic team during the nuclear talks (Getty)

Several weeks after Iran agreed a nuclear deal with world powers, Iran is still no clearer on the stance of its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The main source of confusion among Khamenei's appointees and loyalists are ambiguous statements made after the deal was struck. After paying respect and appreciation to the diplomatic team, he said: "Whether this deal is ratified or rejected, we will not allow anyone to misuse it."

He doesn't make clear which body of the Iranian government would review the deal and who he believes wants to misuse it. Furthermore, he has not publicly confirmed the deal and has been silent on its details.

The Obama administration in the US has been trying to sell the deal its public. Khamenei has not even tried with his.

This appears to be a break from the standard. Khamenei has shown, in 27 years of leadership, that he prefers to micromanage the country's affairs, especially its foreign policy. The nuclear deal was impossible without his input and consent at each step.

So why now the ambiguity? Two reasons could explain this. Firstly, he does not want to be seen as a leader who compromises and accepts significant concessions. He called his decisions to enter the negotiations "heroic flexibility" to prevent any reading of his actions as a sign of weakness. Khamenei also increased his anti-US rhetoric after the deal was struck.

Secondly, he doesn't want to take responsibility for the costs of a nuclear programme that will now effectively be mothballed. He has presided over a policy that has cost the Iranian people billions of dollars, and more than $100 billion in economic losses due to sanctions.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says that "1kg of 20 percent enriched uranium is just $14,000 in the global market and it has cost way higher than that for us". 

Considering such losses, Khamenei cannot be the cheerleader for the deal.

The blame game

Husein Shariatmadari, Khamenei's representative on the Kayhan Daily and its editor in chief, believes the ayatollah delegated decision-making on the deal to President Hassan Rouhani and Iran's Islamic consultative assembly, the majlis. Others are not so sure.

Shariatmadari believes Khamemei should expect the majlis to reject the deal. However, it seems that the security and military establishments, both loyal to Khamenei, are comfortable with the nuclear agreement.

In this situation, the only function of opposing the deal would be to blame the administration of Rouhani for all of its shortcomings.

Khamenei played the same game with both Rafsanjani and Khatami administrations. While he was micromanaging the country, the ayatollah behaved and spoke as if he had no responsibility in the countries' affairs.

He continues to preach on policy and decision-making as if he has no hand in running the country. This is against all his constitutional and actual powers. He is above the law, unaccountable and under no checks or balances.

Majid Mohammadi is an Iranian-born academic, and the author of dozens of books in Persian and English on politics, arts and religion in Iran.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.