Date
19 November 2017
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, shown in this file photo, backs the ongoing nuclear talks but continues to denounce the United States. Photo: Bloomberg
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, shown in this file photo, backs the ongoing nuclear talks but continues to denounce the United States. Photo: Bloomberg

Iran not keen to resume normal ties with ‘Great Satan’

Iran and the United States are not expected to normalize relations even if an international agreement is reached on Tehran’s nuclear program.

“You cannot erase decades of hostility with a deal. We should wait and see, and Americans need to gain Iran’s trust. Ties with America is still a taboo in Iran,” an unnamed Iranian official was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China and the US are trying to reach a deal with Iran aimed at stopping Tehran’s capability to develop a nuclear bomb in exchange for an easing of sanctions that are crippling its economy.

Officials at the talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne said attempts to reach a framework agreement, intended as a prelude to a comprehensive deal by the end of June, could fall apart as a Tuesday deadline loomed.

Loyalists of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, drawn from among Islamists and Revolutionary Guards who fear continued economic hardship might cause the collapse of the establishment, have agreed to back President Hassan Rouhani’s pragmatic approach to a nuclear deal, Iranian officials said.

“But it will not go beyond that and he [Khamenei] will not agree with normalizing ties with America,” said an official who spoke in condition of anonymity.

Tensions between the hardline and pragmatic camps over the nuclear talks have receded in recent months since Khamenei publicly backed the talks.

However, Khamenei continues to give speeches denouncing Iran’s “enemies” and “the Great Satan” aimed at reassuring hardliners for whom anti-American sentiment is central to Iran’s Islamic revolution.

Khamenei, whose hostility towards the Washington holds together Iran’s faction-ridden leadership, remains deeply suspicious of US intentions.

But despite disagreement over Iran-US ties, Iranian leaders on both sides of the divide agree that a nuclear deal will help Iran rebuild its economy.

Relations with Washington were severed after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and enmity to the US has always been a rallying point for hardliners in Iran.

“As long as Khamenei remains supreme leader the chances of normalizing US-Iran relations are very low,”said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

“Rapprochement with the US arguably poses a greater existential threat to Khamenei than continued conflict.” 

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