Supreme Leader says Americans not ‘trustworthy’

U.S. congressmen, hoping that their recent letter to President Barack Obama advocating a fresh diplomatic start with Iran would be cheered in Tehran, are being forced to take a reality check.

At an Iftar banquet on Sunday — with newly-elected President Hasan Rouhani and his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad within audible distance — Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke his mind. He repeated what he has often said before: The United States is simply “not trustworthy” enough to become a partner in negotiations.

However, the context of the Ayatollah’s blunt observations had changed dramatically. Last week, 131 congressmen had appended their signatures on a letter to Mr. Obama, where they pronounced that the election of the seemingly moderate Mr. Rouhani to the Iranian presidency presented a golden opportunity for a diplomatic re-engagement with Tehran.

The initiative of the U.S. lawmakers did cause an initial flutter in the Iranian capital. The social media-savvy Mr. Rouhani — a cleric — swiftly went on Twitter. He noted that “131 [U.S.] Congressmen have signed a letter calling on President Obama to give peace a chance with Iran’s new president Rouhani.” In another tweet that followed, he announced that the, “National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iran’s Majlis [Parliament] to look into potential change in U.S. approach to Iran.”

Chairman of the committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi told Iran’s English language Press TV shortly afterwards that the “change in the approach of the U.S. Congressmen requires deliberation”. But with considerable scepticism he also pointed to the fickleness of U.S. congressional members, who had only recently advocated additional sanctions against Iran. With mixed signals emerging from Washington, the committee, in its deliberations would try and “reach a consensus on whether this approach [of the U.S.] is a temporary one or not”, observed Mr. Boroujerdi.

As the Iftar dinner hosted by the Supreme Leader — the highest decision making authority in Iran — progressed, the enthusiasm for a fresh diplomatic start with the Americans had seemingly begun to abate. “I said at the beginning of the [Iranian] year that I am not optimistic about negotiations with the U.S., though in the past years I did not forbid negotiating [with them] about certain issues like Iraq,” asserted the Ayatollah.

He added: “The Americans are ... not trustworthy and they are not honest in their encounters... The stance of American officials over past months once again confirms that one should not be optimistic.”

Ayatollah Khamenei’s distrust in dealing with the Americans is grounded in his firm conviction, based on developments in Libya, Syria and elsewhere in the region, that Washington is ultimately focused on bringing about “regime change” in Iran. Late last month, Iran’s Fars News Agency (FNA) quoted him as saying that the Americans had ulterior motives in not arriving at a settlement of the nuclear issue with Iran. “Iran’s nuclear issue has many times neared the moment of settlement, but Americans have raised new excuses then,” noted the Ayatollah. He then dropped a bombshell by charging his adversaries of trying to “change the government by preventing the settlement of Tehran’s nuclear issue”.

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