Khamenei responds to threats of sanctions and military action

During a special Friday prayer sermon marking the return of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to Iran in 1979, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei touched on a number of pressing issues facing the Islamic Republic, particularly at a regional and international level.

Khamenei spoke about how as a result of the revolution, Iranian officials had become more aware of the enemy. He stated that during the history of the revolution there had been those who were optimistic towards the enemy, but their lies and deception had been revealed by now and Iranian officials knew that they could not count on the enemy’s words. He cited Obama’s recent letter as an example:

“The day that it is necessary and these letters are placed before public opinion, everyone shall know how much the promises and words of America are worth and how they act against their words.”

Turning to the Islamic Awakening, the Islamic Republic’s terminology for the Arab Spring, Khamenei cited the Egyptian and Tunisian electorates willingness to choose Islamist parties as a sign that the political propaganda of the U.S. and Zionism to create Islamophobia had reached a dead end. He went on to say that the result of the uprisings in the Arab world had been that Zionism had become internationally isolated and Palestinians had gained new hope, emphasizing that:

“The truly cancerous tumour of Israel in the region must be destroyed and this shall without a doubt happen.”

Speaking on events in Bahrain, he chastised the Western powers for their silence on the suffering that was happening in that country and responded to accusations that Iran was responsible for the uprising there by saying that:

“This claim is a complete lie, because if we had intervened the situation in Bahrain would be different… Wherever we intervene we clearly say so, as with our intervention, because of our enmity with the cancerous tumour of the Zionist regime, in the two victorious 33 day [Israeli-Hezbollah] and 22 day [Israeli-Hamas] wars. From now on whatever nation or group decides to struggle and confront the Zionist regime we shall help them and have no issues in saying so.”

Moving to US-Iran relations and recent threats made against Iran, Khamenei said that the threat of US sanctions should be turned into an opportunity to become more self-sufficient and progress, as the Islamic Republic has done throughout its history. He also made it clear that these threats would not go unanswered:

“The Americans should know, and in fact already know, that the Islamic Republic has its own threats to respond to threats of war and threats of sanctions which, God willing, shall be implemented when it becomes necessary.”

It is as of yet unclear if the Islamic Republic has indeed prepared its own “threats” to respond to threats of sanctions and military action against it, or if Khamenei’s words are mere rhetoric. As pointed out in previous posts, the Islamic Republic is considering a crude oil ban to the European Union, as a response to a recent EU oil embargo, in the hopes of negatively affecting the economic health of vulnerable Eurozone countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. Even a temporary withdrawal of Iranian oil from the global market could raise prices during a period in which many countries are facing shaky economic prospects.

Khamenei’s promise to release the Obama letters may in fact be another one of the threats which the regime in Tehran believes it has against the current US government. Khamenei’s reference to American “lies” and “deception” may indicate that while the Obama administration has publicly taken a hard line against Iran, its private communications contain a much softer tone. If this is the case, these letters could hurt Obama in his bid for re-election against a Republican contender later this year by making him look “soft” on Iran. There is in fact a historical precedent for this. Khomeini’s timing in releasing the American embassy hostages in 1979 is believed to have seriously hurt President Jimmy Carter’s popularity during the 1980 presidential election campaign and helped Ronald Reagan come to office.

Does Khamenei have a surprise in store for Obama, or should we simply not read too much into this?