Supreme Leader’s Conditions for Negotiations with the United States

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Debates about direct negotiations between Iran and the United States have once again soared in the country. Such debates peaked after a recent trip to New York by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during which he took certain positions on this issue. On the other hand, heated election debates in the run-up to the forthcoming presidential polls in the United States are another reason for this situation. However, the most important issue on Iran's side is conditions which have been considered by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei for negotiations with the United States as well as further considerations about Iran's vital interests in the region.

On the other hand, the Obama administration is trying to find even a temporary solution to Iran issue in order to pass itself as a government which opposes tension in foreign relations so as to attract the trust of the American people. Therefore, the US government has been sending signals to show that it is ready to engage in direct talks with Iran. Of course, the announcement of readiness for talks is nothing new. The government of the United States has already indicated its readiness to start negotiations with Iran in many ways including in the case of direct talks between Tehran and Washington over the situation in Iraq in 2005, through Obama’s allegation soon after his election about his willingness to resume ties with Iran, by the felicitation message issued to the Iranian people by Obama on the occasion of the Iranian new year as well as by recent signals which have been sent to Iran by Obama administration. In the Islamic Republic, however, the Supreme Leader has the final say and is the main decision-maker on such large-scale policies as the issue of negotiations and relations with the United States. The Leader has given firm answers to the United States overtures and allegations which have never been meant to raise hopes within the US administration. Some of those answers were related to the current conditions in the United States and why Tehran is not willing to accept Washington’s request. Other answers are yet related to conditions that the Islamic Republic has set for possible restart of negotiations with the United States.

There is nothing new about the United States’ willingness to negotiate with Iran and since relations between the two countries were cut, Washington has used various pretexts to restore relations with Tehran.

1. Why Iran Rejects Negotiations with US

A. Negative Track Records of the United States

“The problem that the Iranian nation has with the United States is not about what it is doing today; the problem is about fifty and odd years of mischievous acts and malevolence by that [the US] regime toward the Iranian nation. Since [the Iranian calendar year] 1332 [1953-54] up to the present day, and since the victory of the Islamic Revolution [in Iran], there has been not a single day in which the United States has shown its goodwill to the Iranian nation.” (1)

The most important condition for engaging in negotiations and establishment of ties is the existence of trust on both sides. That trust can be earned through various ways one of which is to give executive and objective guarantees such as determining financial losses, stopping military threats, and the issue of balance of powers. The United States has shown that it will not accept to provide either of such objective guarantees as a support for its claims and to build confidence with Iran because international political leverages have been shaped in such a way that the United States can easily manipulate them in its own favor. Therefore, for Iran, the fate of any negotiations with the United States will be nothing but to engage in serious confrontation with the United States from the very beginning, or to give up all its past positions.

In fact, given the track records of the United States, if negotiations are even started, the other negotiating party will have to finally give in to Washington’s demands or take positions which will make the confrontation between the two sides more serious. This would be exactly the same point where Iran is standing right now. The US effort to solve the hostage taking crisis back in the early 1980s, which led to the destruction of invading US forces in Iran's Tabas Desert, is a good evidence to this fact.

It was due to these negative track records, that the Supreme Leader said, “Even if the enemy offered us a single date, we could not be sure that it is not laden with some lethal poison.”

B. Radical and Discourse-Based Problem with the United States

Many countries experience a period of tension in relations over some problem or a policy, but they sit at the negotiating table after a while and reduce tension. This behavior can be also seen in Iran's foreign policy. Such negotiations and even compromises are possible when the tension is not over the two sides’ vital interests. Vital interests of countries are those interests to which the very survival of a country’s political system depends. For example, maintaining the country’s independence and defending the integrity of Islam are among the vital interests of the Islamic Republic establishment. In this sense, if the Islamic Revolution decided to negotiate over such vital interests and put them in danger, the very raison d’être for the existence of the Islamic establishment in Iran would be under question and this would be the end of the Islamic Republic of Iran as we know it.

The existing differences between the United States and Iran can be put in the category of vital interests. They are not over a simple political issue. Therefore, any kind of negotiations with the United States would be tantamount to undermining the entire Islamic establishment and its integrity which will be, of course, unsound and illogical. “Our issue with the United States is not that we disagree over a couple of global or international or regional issues, so that, we could sit [at the negotiating table] and solve them through negotiations. The issue is the issue of life or death; to be or not to be.” (2)

Such a discourse-based and fundamental difference has its roots in the contrast which exists between the Islamist spirit of the Iranian nation and arrogant trait of the United States. “The animosity of the arrogant [political] system of the United States and other arrogant powers of the world with the Islamic establishment is because of the justice flag [hoisted by Iran]; it is because [they] see that a country is moving toward growth and development and scientific and practical progress in the name of Islam and on the basis of the lofty teachings of Islam; [they] know that this would preclude their influence [in Iran].” (3)

C. Negotiation as a Factor for Intensification of United States Pressures on Iran

When you are not on speaking terms with somebody, you have nothing to be cautious about. At the same time, you have no expectation [from the other side] too. However, when you start negotiating with somebody, sit at the negotiation table, drink a cup of coffee together, and in addition, have a friendly chat, sit at an international forum and exchange views to a certain degree, then you become cautious. It is then that imposition [of will] will begin.” (4)

Negotiation and the beginning of diplomatic relations will bring with them certain kinds of limitations. It would be only wise to accept these limitations when the other party does not have an arrogant spirit and does not think about depriving the other party of its independence or undermine its vital interests. Otherwise, limitations which are a natural result of any kind of negotiations will prevent one party from defending its interests in the best possible way. The bitter experience of negotiations between the Palestinian Self-Rule and Israel is a good reminder of this grave danger.

The major outcomes of negotiations between the then head of the Palestinian Self-Rule, Yasser Arafat, and Israel could be summarized in three points:

- Recognition of the occupying regimes of al-Quds (Jerusalem);

- Weakening the standing of the nascent Palestinian rule; and

- Forcing high-ranking officials of the Palestinian Self-Rule to prosecute Palestinian fighters, thus, sowing discord and grudge among various Palestinian groups. (5)

“As I said before, all woes betiding revolutions in the world, and the US influence and domination [over those revolutions] started from this point [negotiations]; like countries which I do not want to mention their names here. Even today, those miserable countries have very bad images. This is why they [the Western states] put so much emphasis on negotiations.”

The woes and miseries of revolutions in the world, and [subsequent] domination and influence of the United States [on those revolutions] stems from compromise with the [global] arrogance.

2. Islamic Republic’s Conditions for Negotiation and Restoration of Relations with the United States

A. Tangible Change in the United States Behavior

As said in the previous part of this article, the United States has left a bad memory and unfavorable records in the minds of Iranian people. To start negotiations and get Islamic Republic to the negotiation table, the United States should first make up for the past, so that, the minimum condition for negotiations, which is to build a minimum level of trust, is met.

In a bid to find a solution to crisis in Iraq, the United States offered trilateral negotiations to Iran in 2005. The Supreme Leader, in an address, referred to the conduct of the Americans at that time when they offered the proposal to Iran, saying, “The Americans proved their hegemonic and extortionist spirit and their lying nature. They pretended that it was Iran which was willing to talk to the United States on various issues. They also used very inappropriate and foul language. Due to their arrogant and lying spirit, some American officials even said that this [negotiations] was in fact a kind of summoning of the Iranian officials [by the United States]. I say that the United States government is too insignificant to summon an Iranian official.”  (6) Such past experiences have prompted the Islamic Republic to note that tangible change in the United States behavior is the main precondition to the beginning of any negotiation.

If the United States does not want, or cannot mend its past ways and correct its records, how they can expect the Islamic Republic, which has seen itself face to face with the United States even before its establishment, to sit at the negotiation table. There is no doubt that in any negotiation something should be taken before anything is given. As long as the United States pursues his hegemonic policy, there would be no negotiation between Tehran and Washington. “[If] you change, we will also change our behavior. [If] you do not change, [you should know that] our nation has become more sturdy, more tolerant [of hardships], more powerful, and more experienced in these [past] thirty years.” (7)

Therefore, as long as the United States pursues the same hegemonic policy, there would be no negotiation.

B. Negotiation should Focus on Issues other than Iran’s Religious and Revolutionary Values

“[Do you think that] if you merely go and sit to talk and negotiate with the United States, all problems will be solved? This is not true. In political customary usage, negotiation means a deal. Negotiation with the United States means to engage in a deal with the United States. A deal means trading; that is, taking something in return for giving something. What do you want to give the United States from the Islamic Revolution in order to expect something in return? What is that which you want to give to the United States, in order to take something in return? What we can give to the United States? What does it expect from us? Do you know what he wants? ‘They had no grudge against them except for [the fact that] they had come to believe in the Almighty and Praised God.’ [A verse from the Quran] By God, the United States is not upset with anything that is related to the Iranian nation as much as it is angry with them for being Muslims and being committed to the pure Mohammedan Islam. It wants you to give up that commitment. It wants you not to hold your head so upright and honorable. Are you ready [to accept this]?” (8)

The existing United States and its current behavior are true instances of the same verse of the Quran which was recited by the Supreme Leader; that is, “They had seen nothing [bad] from the faithful to deserve punishment, nor had they denied anything or hated anything, except for [the fact] that the faithful had come to believe in God.” Without a doubt, no nation will be ready to sit at the negotiation table to have a deal over its religious beliefs. Therefore, the United States should realize that any kind of negotiation should focus on anything except for values and religion of the Iranian nation. In fact, like more other cases of international negotiations, it should focus on political issues of mutual interest to both parties. However, due to the existing conflict between the United States’ viewpoints and the religious ideas of the Iranian nation, the United States sees those ideas as the main problem on its way and is trying to eliminate them. Therefore, any negotiation with the United States will be practically in vain because the opposite party to that negotiation is calling for something which is not logical to be given. As a result of such an important difference, negotiations will never end up in anything, but intensified hostility between the two sides.

C. Making the United States Understand

Unlike aforesaid provisions, this is about the Iranian officials. Apart from taking categorical and firm positions during any negotiations in order to defend the rights of Muslims, they should also pay serious attention to making the Americans understand certain things. The Americans have done a lot of injustice to Muslim nations. The United States is trying to dissuade Muslims from pursuing their religious tenets and weaken their compliance with their religious faith. The United States should also give back what it has taken so far from the assets of the Iranian nation. These are some major instances which should be accurately understood by the United States.

When the United States was requesting Iran to engage in direct talks over the situation in Iraq, the Supreme Leader said, “If concerned officials of our country can convey anything to the Americans in the case of Iraq with the goal of making them understand it would be of no objection. However, if negotiations are to simply mean that a way should be paved for the bullying, rude, and deceiving side to impose its demands on the other side by relying on force, this kind of talks, like other cases we have already announced, would be prohibited.”

In this address, the leader, put emphasis on the issue of making the United States understand the necessity of establishment of security in Iraq. Therefore, it is clear that “understanding” here means to make the American officials realize that they should give up certain policies.


In view of the answers given by the Supreme Leader to why Iran is not accepting to enter into negotiations with the United States, and conditions which the Leader has set for such negotiations, it follows that Iran will not change its position in the face of frequent requests from the United States for direct talks because those conditions have not been met yet. Of course, it is noteworthy that those conditions may be met on a special issue. In that case, the two sides may start negotiations only on that issue without engaging in talks in other fields where necessary conditions have not been met yet.


(1) The Leader’s address to Iranian schoolchildren and university students on the eve of Student Day; October 29, 2008

(2) The Leader’s address to Iranian schoolchildren and university students on the eve of Student Day; October 29, 2008

(3) The Leader’s address to people of Rafsanjan city, May, 8, 2005

(4) The Leader’s address to Iranian schoolchildren and university students on the eve of Student Day; November 1, 2008

(5) The Leader’s address to the 4th International Conference for Supporting Palestine; March 4, 2009

(6) The Leader’s address to pilgrims and people living in the neighborhood of Imam Reza (AS) holy shrine; Mashhad city; March 21, 2006

(7) The Leader’s address to pilgrims and people living in the neighborhood of Imam Reza (AS) holy shrine; Mashhad city; March 21, 2009

(8) The Leader’s address to teachers and workers; May 2, 1990

Source: Mashreghnews.IR
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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