Khamenei's New Nuclear Conditions -- Khamenei Playing the U.S.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has masterfully sniffed out the weaknesses of President Obama and his administration, and the revelation of his new conditions on the nuclear deal suggests that Khamenei is ready to milk the administration more and obtain more concessions.

A flimsy deal has been signed by six world powers and Iran. Two prominent institutions, the U.S. congress and the Islamic Republic's parliament (Majlis), ratified the deal as well. Khamenei is now fully invested in his political game of playing with President Obama.

Hence, one would imagine that the agreement is considered to be a 100 percent done-deal. Also, one would assume that Khamenei would now back away after the Majlis ratified the deal under his indirect order and after being assured that his power grip is no longer threatened by Western economic sanctions.

Khamenei's New and Post-Nuclear Deal Conditions

According to a new guideline sent to the President Rowhani and posted on Khamenei's website, the Supreme Leader is demanding the United States and other European countries guarantee and provide "solid and sufficient" proof that all economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic are lifted before Iran fulfills its part and complies with the terms of the nuclear agreement.

Therefore, all the months which were spent deliberating over Iran's nuclear program and the actual signing of it, have apparently amounted to a joke. The Supreme Leader's new condition of lifting sanctions before Tehran's compliance to the terms seemingly violates the deal that was reached.

An additional condition that the Supreme Leader presented is to rule out any "snap-back"
option with regards to the sanctions. First, he wants sanctions to be lifted at the outset, then he wants to make sure that the international community will not have any mechanism through which it can re-impose sanctions in the very likely scenario that Iran decides to pull out of the nuclear agreement and go full speed ahead on uranium enrichment.

But wait, that's not all, there is another condition to be met as well. After Khamenei had his president and nuclear team add the condition of the removal of an arms embargo to the nuclear agreement in the eleventh hour, he is now adding the removal of all sanctions (including the ones linked to Iran's terrorism and human rights violations) to the already-done nuclear deal.

The intriguing aspect of this power struggle is that on the one hand, Iran did not allow the West to bring any issues to the negotiating table other than Iran's nuclear program -- not even Tehran's ballistic program. But on the other hand, Iranian leaders obtained numerous concessions which were not related to the nuclear program; lifting the arms embargo, lifting sanctions related to terrorism and human rights abuses, lifting sanctions against military leaders, as well as many more items.

Since the nuclear agreement appears to be a flimsy throw-away deal, Khamenei's confidence has been bolstered and he will continue to exploit the United States and play with the Obama administration's weakness. That is why after the deal, Iran tested its ballistic missiles in "clear violation" of the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Khamenei positions himself above the law

Khamenei is positioning himself in a very comfortable area; he demonstrates that he is above the law when it comes to any matter including the nuclear deal. This allows him to enact new rules and breach or bypass existing ones at his will.

As I mentioned few months ago, Khamenei was not going to approve or disapprove of the nuclear deal publicly for two major reasons. First of all, he does not desire to hold responsibility or accountability for the outcome of the deal. Secondly, he would like to have the luxury of pulling out of the deal at any time he wishes for any reason that he deems worthy (preferably after economic sanctions are fully lifted).

But there is another reason that he remained neutral as Khamenei was aiming to obtain additional concessions after the nuclear deal was signed and after President Rowhani and his nuclear team had already secured numerous concessions during the nuclear talks.

When it comes to detecting the weakness of other countries and their leaders, Khamenei can be characterized as one of the shrewdest politicians in the region. After all, he has reigned as Iran's Supreme Leader since 1989.

Khamenei is now fully invested in his political game of playing with President Obama. Other European members of the United Nations Security Council (Britain and France) plus Germany followed in the footsteps of the Obama administration in the nuclear talks and also gave concessions to Tehran.

Khamenei knows that Obama is in a position of surrender, and the president will have no other option than to continue giving in to the Supreme Leader's demands or intentionally refuse to address the real issues until he leaves the White House and delegates the problematic deal to the next U.S. president. This will ultimately complicate the prospect of a true nuclear deal.


Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an American scholar and political scientist, is the president of the International American Council on the Middle East. Harvard-educated, Rafizadeh serves on the advisory board of Harvard International Review. He is originally from Iran and Syria. You can contact him at or follow him at @majidrafizadeh

This post first appeared on Al Arabiya.