Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that unless all the sanctions are lifted and not merely suspended, there will be no agreement.
Speaking to a group of Iranian dignitaries including President Hassan Rouhani (see video below), Khamenei said that the only reason Iran entered into the negotiations and agreed to any concessions was for the lifting of the sanctions, which are exacting a crushing toll on Iran’s economy.
“A freeze or suspension of the sanctions is unacceptable to us. If they (merely) suspend the sanctions, we will also (merely) suspend our (obligations). If this is the case, why should we take the initiative and implement them?” asked Khamenei.
The Iranian leader clarified that he was referring only to sanctions that are controlled by the U.S. administration and the Europeans governments. Regarding any other sanctions, Khamenei said that Iran would resolve these issues through “legal action.”
Khamenei also said in the televised speech that the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, should be involved in the final decision about the agreement.
“As for its decision, I don’t make any recommendation — whatever they decide, whether they accept or reject (the agreement), I do not make any recommendations,” he said. “The final decision is in the hands of the members of the Majlis, the representatives of the people.
In June, the Iranian parliament voted to take away their power to veto of any nuclear agreement drawn up with world powers. In amending their own previous legislation, the lawmakers put the veto power into the hands of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), a group made up of ministers and military commanders chosen by Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and headed by Iranian President Hasan Rouhani.
“Whatever decision the leader takes in this regard, we should obey in parliament,” said speaker of the parliament Ali Larijani . “We should not tie the hands of the leader.”
Rouhani, as well as the Iranian negoiators, have stated that the deal — while binding — is not a treaty, protocol or convention that must be ratified by the Iranian parliament.
In a recent interview with NPR, Larijani said that Iran views the concessions it has made– such as the removing of the core of a reactor – as permanent, but fears that U.S. sanctions relief may be temporary. "If something … happens in the U.S. Congress, or if there are new types of sanctions on us, then they should not expect us to go — to implement,” he said. “Or if the Americans don't stay true to their obligations on their part, they shouldn't expect us to do it."
Larijani echoed Khamenei’s sentiments that Iranian agreement to the deal will be solely due to a complete lifting of sanctions. However, statements made by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry indicate that sanctions imposed for non-nuclear reasons are not covered in the deal.
In August, Obama said, "We'll still have our sanctions in place with respect to non-nuclear activities like sponsorship of terrorism or violation of human rights." Shorly after the deal was made, Kerry said the U.S. was “absolutely” able to make Iran exact a price for supporting the terror group Hezbollah.
Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July, Jacob Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, declared, "The United States will also maintain powerful sanctions targeting Iran’s support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and its sponsors in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps–Quds Force; its destabilizing support to the Houthis in Yemen; its backing of Assad’s brutal regime; its missile program; and its human rights abuses at home … We will not be providing any sanctions relief to any of these lines of activity and will not be delisting from sanctions the IRGC, the Quds Force, or any of their subsidiaries or senior officials."
When asked by NPR if sanctions relief will bring reforms, as indicated by Iranian President Rouhani, Larijani tellingly answered, "I think he meant mostly he meant economic reforms." The speaker of the parliament indicated that Rouhani was not referring to political or social reforms.
Other points of contention between Iran and the U.S. that involve the interpretation of the agreement include :
- A statement by Rouhani that Iran does not intend to abide by any part of the nuclear agreement that restricts its military aspirations.
- The agreement keeps in place the current weapons embargo against Iran for the first five years, which prevents Iran from purchasing weapons on the world market. However, Rouhani has said that Iran “will sell and buy weapons whenever and wherever we deem it necessary… we will not wait for permission from anyone or any resolution.”