Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, sharply denounced the United States on Sunday, accusing it of plotting to overthrow the clerical leadership in a chilly response to an overture by President Obama for better cultural ties.
Ayatollah Khamenei did not outright reject Mr. Obama’s offer, saying Iran would keep an eye on Washington’s intentions. But he said that so far Washington’s offers of engagement had been a deception.
In his message, released to coincide with the Iranian new year, Nowruz, Mr. Obama told the Iranian people that Americans want better cultural exchanges with Iran. He also criticized the Iranian leadership for “turning its back” on American overtures.
Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final say on all political matters in Iran, lashed back in a nationally televised address in an annual provincial visit to his hometown, Mashhad, telling the Americans, “You cannot speak about peace and friendship while plotting to hit Iran.”
In particular, he denounced the American criticism of Iran’s own postelection crackdown. Iran has arrested thousands because of protests over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s lopsided victory in June, which the opposition says is fraudulent.
The ayatollah said that in response to past American overtures, “We said that if they are extending a metal hand inside a velvet glove, we won’t accept. Unfortunately, what we had guessed took place.”
American support for the opposition proved that Mr. Obama’s claims to seek dialogue were a deception, the ayatollah said.
“The new U.S. administration said they are willing to normalize relations. But unfortunately in practice they did the opposite,” Ayatollah Khamenei told a crowd in Mashhad, who several times broke into chants of “death to America” and “death to Obama.”
In his message, Mr. Obama said that the American offer of diplomatic dialogue still stands, but that the Iranian government had chosen isolation. (Source NYT)