Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei put on a show of defiance in the face of U.S. sanctions during a televised address to the country.
In a Friday speech marking the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, Khamenei refused President Trump’s offer to negotiate with Iran about its nuclear program. He claimed that the offer was merely bait by the president to score political points ahead of the November presidential election.
“He is going to benefit from negotiations,” Khamenei said, according to the New York Times. “This old man who is in charge in America apparently used negotiations with North Korea as propaganda.”
Khamenei, who is 81 (Trump is 74), delivered his remarks after the president tweeted in June about the possibility of negotiations prior to the November election. Trump lauded the return of Navy veteran Michael White, who had been imprisoned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for nearly two years.
“So great to have Michael home. Just arrived. Very exciting. Thank you to Iran. Don’t wait until after U.S. Election to make the Big deal. I’m going to win. You’ll make a better deal now!” Trump said.
So great to have Michael home. Just arrived. Very exciting. Thank you to Iran. Don’t wait until after U.S. Election to make the Big deal. I’m going to win. You’ll make a better deal now! https://t.co/OGJU2VWBWq
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2020
The United States and Iran have seen soaring tensions soar over the past couple of years since the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, which the two countries inked in 2015 along with Germany, France, Britain, China, and Russia. In 2018, Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the pact and embarked on a “maximum pressure” campaign to force Iran into submission by squeezing its economy.
Iran has increasingly violated the initial tenants of the deal since the maximum pressure campaign began, including violating the strictures related to enriching and stockpiling uranium. Khamenei also used his speech to praise the country’s nuclear program, which he reportedly said was absolutely necessary for Iran’s future.
There has been increasing unrest across Iran over the past year.
In November, thousands of Iranians took to the streets to protest against a hike in fuel prices nationwide. The demonstrations soon evolved into more general mass protests about the Iranian regime’s handling of the country. Another wave of protests rocked the country in January to express anger with the regime’s initial denial of wrongdoing after it downed a Ukrainian airliner, killing all 176 people on board.
During his Friday speech, Khamenei characterized U.S. hopes of a popular uprising as “pipe dreams.”
An Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, recently held an online summit featuring prominent U.S. figures, including Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani and former Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
The conflict between the two countries came to a head in January after the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have also manifested in more subtle regional skirmishes.
In April, a squad of 11 Iranian fast boats aggressively approached a group of U.S. Navy forces in the Persian Gulf. The Navy said the vessels had conducted “unsafe” and “unprofessional” actions. Trump responded soon after and announced that he ordered the U.S. Navy to destroy any Iranian boats that harass U.S. ships.
Last week, the Iranian military attacked a mock vessel designed to look like a U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in a show of force designed to bolster its propaganda against the U.S. Footage showed missiles hitting the vessel and Iranian commandos shimmying down ropes onto the ersatz ship.
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