November 4, 2019—On Sunday, at a meeting with a group of students, Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Iranian regime, made remarks on the current state of the regime and made policy recommendations for his officials. Interestingly, what Khamenei say—and didn’t say—tell much about the strategic deadlock that is closing in on his regime and the unsolvable crises he’s faced with.
Iraq was off the agenda
Remarkably, missing from Khamenei’s remarks were the ongoing uprisings in Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of protesters have been calling for the ouster of the Iranian regime. Last week, as protests raged in Iraq and Lebanon, Khamenei hastily called on the nations to “remedy the insecurity” and said, “The people of Iraq and Lebanon should know that their priority should be security. The peoples of these countries should know that their demands can only be met in the context of legal structures.”
Predictably, Khamenei’s remarks only further enraged the people of Iraq, who have revolted against the meddling of his regime in their country. In response to Khamenei’s “recommendations,” the Iraqi youth and people set fire to his posters and pictures of Qassem Soleimani, the notorious commander of the terrorist Quds Force. Videos of protesters spitting and throwing shoes at pictures of Khamenei were widely distributed on social media.
On Sunday, Iraqi protested stormed the Iranian regime’s consulate in Karbala, a Shiite-majority city that has been under the negative influence and meddling of the regime in the past years.
Khamenei’s silence on Iraq in his Sunday speech speak volumes on the lesson the Iraqi people taught him in the past week.
The Iranian regime’s deadlock
What Khamenei did discuss only underlined his desperation about the current situation his regime has found itself in. A considerable part of Khamenei’s remarks was about negotiations with the U.S., which has now become a serious issue for his regime.
Khamenei confessed that in the current situation, if the Iranian regime enters negotiations and gives in to the demands of its international counterparts, the establishment will receive a serious blow. But in the same breath he admitted that not entering negotiations will mean that there will be no change in the current situation, and his regime will remain on the path of slow and painful suffocation under international sanctions.
Regarding the U.S., Khamenei said, “They won’t give you any concessions. They will just force you to back down and claim that we forced Iran to kneel and the maximum pressure policy was successful.”
Reflecting on the results of possible negotiations, Khamenei eloquently articulated the current deadlock of his regime: “If we entered negotiations, the Americans would push for the issue of our missiles… If our officials accepted this, the country would receive a serious blow, and if they didn’t, the current situation would continue.”
The lack of solution
But the supreme leader of the mullahs’ regime didn’t finally say what his decision would be, and whether he wants to enter negotiations or not. For the sake of having said something, Khamenei repeated his old mantra: “The key to solve the country’s economic problems is the prosperity of national production.”
But how will Iran achieve prosperity in national production? Hassan Rouhani, the president of the regime, answered this question for Khamenei in October during a speech at Tehran University.
“They say that, economically, we should stand on our own feet… Without any relations with the world, and while our banks and exports are locked down, we will have no development,” Rouhani said, implicitly mocking Khamenei.
In Sunday’s speech, Khamenei, who has a talent in speaking vaguely, tried to distance himself from the failure and consequences of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal the regime reached with world powers in 2015 and committed to setting caps on its nuclear program.
“Recently, although I knew it wouldn’t work, but to try it out and make everything clear to everyone, I said that although the Americans have erred in withdrawing from the JCPOA, if they remove all sanctions, they can take part in the JCPOA. But I knew they wouldn’t accept, and this is what happened,” Khamenei said, implicitly admitting that his influence within his own ranks is waning.
The U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018 on grounds that it doesn’t do enough to prevent the Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear bombs and curbing its destructive policies in the Middle East region. The withdrawal happened as the past few years have shown that the Iranian regime has used the economic benefits of the nuclear deal to fund its ballistic missile program and ratchet up its terrorist intervention in the countries of the Middle East. The U.S. has imposed sanctions on the Iranian regime’s terror and weapons development apparatus and is calling for an agreement that will ensure peace and security.
Zarif’s laments in parliament
On the same day that Khamenei was discussing his regime’s crises, Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of the regime was busy giving his own account of the unsolvable problems of the regime in the Majlis (parliament).
Responding to MPs about the lack of progress on the JCPOA and negotiations, Zarif said, “What I said was nothing less than what [Khamenei] said. If he wants, we will negotiate. I do not speak of my own will.”
Zarif also reiterated his devotion to the regime and its leader, saying, “Look at what the U.S. Secretary of State has said. I’m renowned for being a defender of the establishment. You have heard what the U.S. State Secretary has said about me, which is my honor… After years of living in the west, I’m not enamored of negotiating with the westerners. “
Meanwhile, Zarif warned that not negotiating will result in the return of pre-JCPOA UN Security Council resolutions, and he implicitly blamed Khamenei for anything that happens to the regime, saying, “If you have any concerns, you should criticize the policies that have been defined. I only carry out the policies of the establishment.”
The supreme leader and foreign minister incriminating each other and issuing contradictory remarks on the same day is just the latest manifestation of a regime that is in the throes of collapse.
A reality check on Khamenei’s role in negotiations
While Khamenei tried to dissociate himself with any failure pertaining to negotiations, his record paints a totally different picture. In 2015, while Zarif and Rouhani were in the midst of hammering the final details of the JCPOA, Khamenei tried to take credit for the entire process and presented himself as the initiator of the negotiations through “one of the respected members of the region.”
He also described the nuclear negotiations as “heroic flexibility” and claimed to have managed every single detail of the entire process. But now that the JCPOA and the idea of negotiating with the west is falling apart, he’s trying to lay the blame on the president and his foreign minister. This effort will only drive a wedge through the widening rifts in his regime.
The other reality is the regime’s collapsing hegemony in the region, especially in Iraq and Lebanon, countries that Iranian officials have described as the “strategic depth” of the regime. As the avalanche of protests continue to bear down, Khamenei and his regime find themselves increasingly cornered and without a way out.