Khamenei: Opposition to US persists after nuclear deal

Iran’s supreme leader says policy towards “arrogant US” will not change, days after landmark agreement.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has vowed that his country’s sharp opposition to the US government’s policies in the Middle East will not change despite acquiescing to a deal with world powers over his country’s controversial nuclear programme earlier in the week.

Khamenei said on Saturday, in an address marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, that he wanted Iranian officials to peruse Tuesday’s landmark agreement to ensure national interests were preserved and to prevent the disruption of its political principles or military policies.

“We will never stop supporting our friends in the region and the people of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon. Even after this deal our policy towards the arrogant US will not change,” he said.

Under the deal, sanctions will be gradually removed in return for Iran accepting long-term curbs on a nuclear programme that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb. Iran denies it seeks a nuclear bomb.

Photos: Iranians celebrate nuclear deal

“The Americans say they stopped Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Khamenei said at Tehran’s Mosala mosque. “They know it’s not true. We had a fatwa [religious ruling], declaring nuclear weapons to be religiously forbidden under Islamic law. It had nothing to do with the nuclear talks.”

Meanwhile, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said he spoke to the ruler of the Gulf Arab state of Qatar over the telephone on Saturday and expected a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers would improve relations with neighbours.

“No doubt, deal will lead Iran to closer relations w/ neighbors, esp Qatar,” Rouhani wrote on his official Twitter page.

Public celebrations were held in the streets of Tehran after the deal was signed. However, Friday prayers at the Tehran University campus were interrupted by hardliners chanting anti-US slogans.

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Khamenei said slogans of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” chanted at demonstrations were reflective of public opinion and described the nuclear agreement as an “exception”.

“We have repeatedly said we do not negotiate with the US on regional or international affairs; not even on bilateral issues. There are some exceptions like the nuclear programme that we negotiated with Americans to serve our interests. US policies in the region are diametrically opposed with Iran’s policies.”

Sadegh Zibakalam, a political science professor at Tehran University, said the message seemed aimed at appeasing Khamenei’s hardline supporters.

“The backbone of the ayatollah’s support comes from hardliners and the historic agreement in Vienna was in a sense a tremendous defeat for them,” he told Al Jazeera. “So in a way the ayatollah was trying to keep them happy, and keep their morale high.”

In the defiant speech, Khamenei accused the US of seeking to undermine Iran.

“Iran would not welcome war but if there were one, the United States would be humiliated,” he said.

Worshippers gathered for Eid prayers in Tehran [AFP]
Worshippers gathered for Eid prayers in Tehran [AFP]
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies