A top aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader on Thursday encouraged all Iranians to support their country’s nuclear negotiators in talks with six world powers over the future of Tehran’s nuclear program.
Invoking “heroic flexibility” for the talks, Saeed Jalili — a hardline representative of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and himself a former nuclear negotiator — praised Iran’s negotiating team led by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
“All must support the negotiating team to reach our aim” of securing Iran’s nuclear rights, said Jalili, according to Bloomberg news. “The nuclear discussions are above and beyond narrow political and factional debates.”
Jalili was the establishment-supported candidate in last year’s presidential election but lost to relative moderate Hassan Rouhani, whose victory paved the way for a change of direction in Iranian foreign policy that led to last year’s interim nuclear deal.
Jalili’s remarks come one week after recent talks in Vienna failed to produce any concrete results and just days after the head of Iran’s armed forces, who reports directly to Khemenei, warned conservative media outlets in Iran against opposing the nuclear talks and called on them to support Rouhani and Zarif.
“This strengthens Zarif’s hand in the talks. His ability to deliver has credibility,” National Iranian American Council President Trita Parsi told ThinkProgress in an email. “Imagine how much Obama’s hand would be strengthened if [Sen. Mark] Kirk, [Sen. John] McCain and others came out in support of Obama’s negotiation team?
“The sanctions centric mindset doesn’t see such possibilities though,” he continued, “and instead directs you to a Hollywood-style good cop, bad cop approach, which actually weakens U.S. negotiation strength because the good cop is seen as weak and lacking ability to deliver.”
The Supreme Leader, who has the final say in Iranian foreign policy, including the nuclear issue, has previously endorsed Rouhani and Zarif in their negotiations but observers said the recent comments are “significant,” particularly coming from Jalili, after a dismal result from the recent round of talks in Vienna.
Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to report on Friday that Iran is continuing to comply with the interim nuclear deal reached in Geneva last November that froze and rolled-back Iran’s program and allowed for greater inspections of its nuclear facilities. Iran and the six powers, the U.S., U.K., France, China, Russia and Germany, are scheduled to resume talks aimed at reaching a final agreement next month.