Tehran: Iran’s supreme leader made his sharpest criticism yet of his country’s president on Monday, faulting him for having crossed “red lines” in nuclear negotiations with the United States and other failures that have created an economic crisis.
The remarks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei compounded the pressure on President Hassan Rouhani, who is contending with economic protests, anger over endemic corruption, the threat of possible armed conflict with the United States and calls from Iran’s hard-line factions for resignations in his government.
Rouhani’s promises that the 2015 nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers would lead to an economic revival in Iran have been thwarted since the Trump administration renounced the agreement in May and moved to restore US sanctions.
Over the past three months, Iran’s currency has plunged in value and large multinational companies have scrapped plans to do business in Iran, intimidated by the threat of financial penalties in the United States.
Khamenei said on Monday that because of the insistence of Rouhani and his team, he had allowed them to negotiate the nuclear agreement, in which Iran curbed its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. However, Khamenei said, Iranian negotiators surrendered too much and “trespassed the red lines that had been set”.
Were it not for his own advice to Rouhani, the ayatollah said, “we would have given up more”.
Khamenei’s remarks show how he has sought to distance himself from Rouhani. The remarks also amounted to his first public rejection of President Donald Trump’s offer two weeks ago of unconditional talks with Iran.
While other Iranian officials, including Rouhani, had spurned the offer, Khamenei’s rejection is considered the final word.
Most outside analysts say Iran is not interested in armed conflict with the United States. Khamenei used the opportunity to also make it clear that Iran was not seeking a fight, even as he denounced the Americans in his own version of a Trump-style Twitter posting.
“Beside sanctions, they are talking about war and negotiations,” he said. “In this regard, let me say a few words to the people: There will be no war, nor will we negotiate with the US.”