The US Government Open Source Center translated the entirety of Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s speech in Tabriz on Saturday. In it, Khamenei for the nth time called nuclear weapons a ‘crime against humanity’ and affirmed that Iran does not want them. Although this speech was covered by US media such as the New York Times, its editors gave the article the confusing title of “Ayatollah Says Iran Will Control Nuclear Aims” instead of just saying, as The Guardian and others did, that he renounced making or having nuclear weapons.
Long-time readers know that I think Iran wants nuclear latency or ‘the Japan option,’ i.e. they don’t want to make or stockpile nuclear warheads, but do want the deterrence of invaders that comes with the known ability to put one together in short order. I believe that the US in Israel know that there is no weapons program in Iran, but don’t want that country to have latency, either, since they’d like the option, as regional hegemons, of attacking Iran and overthrowing its government.
In this speech, Khamenei also slammed president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his public attack on speaker of parliament Ali Larijani, in which he accused the five Larijani brothers of corruption, perhaps in a bid to derail Larijani’s possible bid for the presidency this June (Ahmadinejad can’t run this year).
He also slammed the US human rights record, instancing the global network of black prisons for torture, continual drone strikes, and the defects of US campaign financing.
I’ll start with a key excerpt and then give the text from where it starts getting interesting, after the compliments to Tabriz and the affirmation that enemies’ attempts to break up Iran along ethnic lines (Azerbaijan is a Turkic area, not a Persian one) have signally failed.
“They want to talk (with Iran) and solve their problems. This is what they say, but in practice they resort to imposing sanctions (on Iran), lying and making inappropriate statements…A few days ago, the American President made a statement about Iran’s nuclear issues. He spoke as if the difference between Iran and America was that Iran wanted to build nuclear weapons, and he said that as far as they (American officials) could, they would not allow Iran to build nuclear weapons…
We do not want to build nuclear weapons. Not because America would be upset if we do so. It is rather what we have decided. We believe that nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity and should not be built; and whatever weapons there are in the world should be destroyed. This is what we believe in; and this has got nothing to do with you (Americans)."
Khamenei went on to say that in any case the US opposition to a country building nukes has seldom stopped them from doing so (India, Pakistan, North Korea), but that Iran doesn’t in any case want such weapons.
Khamenei holds that severe US sanctions against Iran are intended to halt its fuel enrichment, whereby it is making fuel for its Bushehr reactors and its one medical reactor. Many oil countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are going in for nuclear reactors because in those countries, they use oil for electricity generation, and they’d rather save the oil and sell the oil on the world market. They could also use natural gas, but much of the gas in the area is relatively dirty (the UAE has this problem), and Iran in any case has been cut off from the expertise in gas development at Total and Shell by US sanctions.
The ayatollah also believes that offers of direct talks with Iran by the Obama administration are a trap, whereby the US can then allege that its severe sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and make Iran lose face. He wants a token of good faith from the US, such as easing sanctions (which reduced Iranian oil exports by 40% last year) so as to be able to go into talks without being humiliated.
Here’s the speech:
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate…
Let me say this to you, the American Government officials are unreasonable people. Their words are unreasonable; their actions are unreasonable, and repressive. They expect others to surrender to their unreasonable actions. Well, some do surrender. Some governments, some political elite in some countries, surrender to their audacity and bullying behaviour.
But the Iranian nation, the Islamic Republic is not going to surrender. The Islamic Republic has something to say, has reason and logic, has capability, and has power. Hence, it won’t surrender to unreasonable words and unreasonable actions. Now in what way are they unreasonable? The sign of them being unreasonable is the contradictions between their words and their actions. They say one thing and do something else. Well, there is no clearer sign than this for unreasonableness. A reasonable person says something convincing and then follows their words with actions. These guys, the American Government officials and their other Western allies, are not like that. They say something, they make a claim, but in practice they do exactly the opposite.
Now I give you a few examples: They claim 'we are committed to human rights.' Yes, the Americans have ascended the human rights flag saying they are committed to human rights, not only in their own country, the US, but in the whole world. Well that is a claim. How about what they actually do? In practice, they inflict the most harm and insult upon the rights of people in various countries and nations.
They (the Americans) have hidden prisons throughout the world. They have the Guantanamo and Iraqi Abu Ghurayb prisons. They attack civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other places. They use drones for espionage purposes, and to put people under pressure.
Every day, you hear news (on the use of the drones) in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These drones — as an American magazine published a few days ago — will cause them (the Americans) trouble. (People chanting: 'God is great, Khamene’i is the leader, death to US, England, and Israel')
They say that they are committed to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Their excuse to attack Iraq 11 years ago was the same. They said that Saddam’s regime was building nuclear weapons. They however went there and they did not find anything; and it became clear that it was a lie (from the very beginning).
They say that they are committed to not allow the proliferation of nuclear weapons. At the same time, they defend and support a mischievous government [Israel] that holds nuclear weapons and threatens others with the use of its nuclear weapons, i.e. the Zionist regime. That is their word, and this is their practice.
They say that they are committed to spreading democracy in the world. This is their word. Let us not discuss here what sort of democracy America has.
With such a claim, the Americans constantly oppose the Islamic Republic, which enjoys the most vivid and evident democracy in the region. At the same time, with evident audacity, they support certain countries in the same region that do not know anything about the fragrance of democracy; and their people have never had the chance to vote or even see a ballot box. This is their commitment to supporting democracy. You can see the distance between their word and their deed.
They say that they want to settle their problems with Iran. This is what they have always been saying, and they say it more often these days. They say that they want to solve their problems with Iran. They want to talk (with Iran) and solve their problems. This is what they say, but in practice they resort to imposing sanctions (on Iran), lying and making inappropriate statements. They constantly publish false statements about the Islamic Republic state and the Iranian nation. A few days ago, the American President made a statement about Iran’s nuclear issues. He spoke as if the difference between Iran and America was that Iran wanted to build nuclear weapons, and he said that as far as they (American officials) could, they would not allow Iran to build nuclear weapons.
If we really intended to build nuclear weapons, how could you prevent us? If Iran had decided to have nuclear weapons, America could by no means stop it. (People chanting: 'God is great, Khamene’i is the leader, death to US, England, and Israel')
We do not want to build nuclear weapons. Not because America would be upset if we do so. It is rather what we have decided. We believe that nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity and should not be built; and whatever weapons there are in the world should be destroyed. This is what we believe in; and this has got nothing to do with you (Americans).
If we did not have such a belief and had decided to build nuclear weapons, no power could have stopped us, as they could not stop other countries, such as India, Pakistan, and North Korea, from doing so. They (the Americans) opposed them; nevertheless they built their nuclear weapons.
They are somehow deceptive in saying that they would not allow Iran to build nuclear weapons. The discussion is not over nuclear weapons. Iran’s nuclear case is not about nuclear weapons. They (the Americans) rather want to prevent the Iranian nation from exercising its absolute and undeniable right, i.e. nuclear enrichment and the peaceful use of Iran’s domestic capabilities. You (the Americans) are however not able to do so. The Iranian nation will exercise its right.
As you see, the American statesmen are illogical and utter illogical statements. One cannot talk to an illogical individual on the basis of logic. The individual is illogical. Illogical means to be a bully and speak nonsense. This is a reality that we have clearly understood in the past 30 years by coming across various world affairs. We know who we are facing, and how we should behave toward him.
I have written down a few points that I want to highlight here for you, dear brothers and sisters, and the entire Iranian nation. Such statements are for the Iranian nation. When the American President and statesmen speak, they attempt to deceive the public opinion of the world or the nations in the region — and the Iranian public opinion if they succeed. We have nothing to do with the world public opinion for the time being. The media network affiliated to the Zionists and America do not broadcast our statements as they are. They do not broadcast our statements, or they broadcast them out of context or upside down.
I therefore talk to my own people. The power of the Islamic Republic has got nothing to do with world public opinion. The Islamic Republic has not gained its power, dignity, and honor from world public opinion. It has gained them from the Iranian nation. The strong structure created by the Iranian nation — and its message spread around the world on its own — relies on the Iranian people. I therefore talk to my own people. I do not care if others want to listen or not and whether they want to broadcast it or not. I however believe that our dear Iranian nation should know about it.
The first point is that they (the Americans) are illogical. They do not believe in what they say. Their word does not match their deed. The second point is that the Americans have said that they want Iran to sit and negotiate with them. Their illogical behavior is also evident in their invitation to talks. They do not intend to solve problems; and I will explain about this later. Their intention is to have some propaganda. They want to show to Muslim nations that the Islamic Republic state — with all its steadfastness and resilience — was finally forced to sit at the negotiating table and accept compromise. They want to tell other nations that when the Iranian nation has to compromise, other nations will not have much option either. This is the message they want to send to Muslim nations around the world, which have started their movements. They need to do so to disappoint and silence those Muslim countries, which are today feeling the touch of the breeze of awakening, and have gained a sense of dignity because of Islam.
Editor's Note: This essay originally appeared on February 18, 2013, on Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion, a website featuring commentary by Professor Juan Cole. It was reproduced here with the consent of Professor Cole.