Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threw a large spanner in the works of nuclear diplomacy Sunday, May 11. Less than a week before the next round of talks with the six powers, he said: “The Revolutionary Guards should definitely… not be satisfied with the present level [of missile production]. They should mass produce.”
Referring to Western concerns that Iran is designing missiles able to carry nuclear warheads, Khamenei said: “They [the West] expect us to limit our missile program while they constantly threaten Iran with military action. So this is a stupid, idiotic expectation.”
Khamenei spoke during a visit to the aeronautics fair organized by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), which are responsible for Iran’s missile and nuclear programs.
In recent weeks, Washington, Tehran, Moscow and the International Atomic Energy in Vienna have pumped out a stream of optimistic reports about the progress made in drafting a comprehensive nuclear accord and Tehran’s faithful observance of the interim deal reach last November.
debkafile’s sources, however, persisted in pointing out that this progress was possibly only because the six powers, led by the US, refrained from addressing the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program and its planned production of missiles for carrying nuclear warheads. Therefore, the text of the comprehensive accord, drafted in collaboration with the Iranian team under the guidance of President Hassan Rouhani, left the military aspect of the nuclear program untouched.
Of late, mainly under pressure from Israel, Washington informed Tehran that there was no escape from opening a discussion on ways of restricting the weapons dimensions of its nuclear program and its ballistic missile projects.
Hence Khamenei’s furious comeback – intended to force the Obama administration to give ground on these demands or prepare for nuclear diplomacy to be blown out of the sky.
In the last DEBKA Weekly, published Friday, May 9, exclusive Iranian sources revealed another reason for the supreme leader’s pugnacity. The radical Revolutionary Guards chiefs have made it clear that they will never give up on a nuclear weapon. The closer the negotiations come to a deal, the nearer Tehran approaches a military coup that would oust President Rouhani and reduce the supreme leader to a figurehead.
Khamenei read the writing on the wall and, finding himself between a rock and a hard place, decided that he had better stand firm on any further concessions – even this meant sacrificing nuclear diplomacy and its rewards.