Tehran’s Friday Mass Prayer Leader Ahmad Khatami said today that only Iran’s Supreme Leader can decide whether to establish talks with the United States.
Iranian media report that Ahmad Khatami told worshippers in Tehran: “No one is in a position to talk about negotiations with the United States,” adding that the decision rests solely with Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader.
He maintained that since Iranian-U.S. relations were severed more than 30 years ago, “U.S. officials have continuously tried to establish relations with Iran with both open and covert requests.”
He maintained that talk of negotiating with the United States is “naïve” because negotiations are not limited to mere “talks but they also entail trade, and the Islamic Revolution wants nothing from the United States.”
Khatami was implicitly referring to recent statements by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, the moderate head of Iran’s Expediency Council, who said the Islamic Republic should maintain relations with all countries.
Rafsanjani cited his correspondence with the late leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, who had asked him to resolve the issue of Iran-U.S. relations so that it would not harm the country’s future. Rafsanjani said he had responded: “The path that we have taken so far, neither talking with the United States nor having any relations, is not sustainable. The United States is a world superpower. From our perspective, there is no difference between the United States and Europe, China or Russia. If we negotiate with the latter, why shouldn’t we negotiate with the former? And negotiations do not mean that we will submit to them. We will hold talks; if they accept our position and we accept their position, it is finished.”
Rafsanjani’s statements have drawn fire from Iran’s conservative factions.
A member of the Motalefe Eslami Party, Hamdireza Taraghi, said: “Any desire to negotiate with the United States is against the Islamic awakening and revolutionary forces, and if we had insight, we would never express such ideas.”
He added: “Ever since his presidency, Hashemi has been of the opinion that re-establishing relations with the United States would solve all of the country’s problems, but this view is in complete contrast to reality and the actions of U.S. leaders.”