PHOTO: Supreme Leader “Knowingly saying world is one of negotiation is treason”
Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued his strongest warning to President Rouhani, challenging the Government’s foreign and economic policies in a religious ceremony on Thursday.
Ayatollah Khamenei jabbed at Rouhani’s approach of “engagement” of other countries, going as far as to warn of “treason” if the foreign policy is not based on military strength:
That they say the future of the world is one of negotiation and not one of missiles….If that is said out of ignorance, well it is ignorance, but if it’s said knowingly, it is treason.
Khamenei then softened his warning but continued to emphasize military capability and to rule out any discussions with the US:
The Islamic Republic must use all tools. I am not opposed to political dialogue, not with everyone of course. I am fine with political dialogue on the level of global issues. These are times of both missiles and negotiations.
If Islamic System seeks technology and negotiations, but lacks defensive power, it should withdraw vis-à-vis any tiny country’s threats. 1/2
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) March 30, 2016
While supporting the talks that led to the July 2015 nuclear agreement, the Supreme Leader has said that “engagement” cannot extend to talks with Washington on any other issues.
Khamenei’s criticism of the Government was checked by the need for implementation of the nuclear deal, confirmed in January. However, the Supreme Leader — following February elections in which a centrist-reformist bloc linked to Rouhani had unexpected success — has become more aggressive in his warnings, citing US failure to adhere to terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The Supreme Leader has said that Washington is failing to return Iranian assets and to lift restrictions on the financial and banking sectors.
In part, the objection is artificial — given the intricacy of sanctions, it was always going to take months to remove them. However, the US has boosted Khamenei by imposing new restrictions, citing Iranian testing of ballistic missiles and cyber-warfare.
Last week, on the occasion of the Iranian New Year, the Supreme Leader rebuked Rouhani’s invocation of a “JCPOA 2” for economic recovery after the nuclear deal and amid sanctions removal. Instead, Khamenei proclaimed a “Resistance Economy” based on self-sufficiency.
On Wednesday, he linked this to the call for military development, “If the Islamic establishment seeks technology and negotiations but does not have defensive power, it will have to back down in the face of any petty country that threatens [it].”
In the face of Khamenei’s implied threats, the Government has avoided confrontation. Rouhani and high-level officials have assured that they will implement the Resistance Economy. They have reaffirmed a commitment to ballistic missile development, despite the US and its European allies taking the matter to the UN Security Council.
But the President has been beset by further embarrassment. On Tuesday, he had to cancel a trip to Austria, after Austrian President Heinz Fischer said that he could not give a timetable for the lifting of sanctions.
Defense Minister: We Won’t Wait For Permission on Missiles
Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan has reinforced the Supreme Leader’s message on military strength, saying that Iran will not wait for permission from “others” to boost its capabilities.
Dehghan told State TV on Wednesday night that testing of ballistic missiles “is based on pre-arranged plans which are carried out in order to assess the degree of its preparedness and capabilities”:
We will continue to act on achieving defense capabilities with the aim of responding to any threat. In this course, we will not need any authorization or approval from others.
Asian Imports of Iran Oil at 2-Year High
Asian imports of Iranian oil rose to a two-year high in February, with shipments into India and South Korea rising sharply after the start of the removal of sanctions.
Imports by Iran’s top four buyers — China, India, Japan and South Korea — were 1.28 million barrels per day in February, up 24.6% from February 2015. The volume is the highest by Tehran’s four biggest clients since they bought 1.37 million bpd in February 2014.
India’s imports grew 111.1% to 215,800 bpd, while South Korea’s imports reached a two-year high of 282,000 bpd. Imports by China and Japan were steady from a year earlier.
Amid US and European sanctions, Iranian sales fell from 2.5 million bpd in 2011 to less than 1 million bpd before rebounding to 1.4 million bpd amid discussion of a nuclear deal in 2014.
Iran has also started oil exports to Europe, bringing the Islamic Republic’s total sales in February to about 1.6 million bpd, according to industry analysts.
However, that total is still far short of the claim of 1st Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri that Iran shipped 2.2 million bpd.