Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei led chants of “Death to America” over the weekend, as talks between the P5+1 world powers and the Iranian regime are closing in on a March 31 deadline to accept a basic framework for an agreement.
Just one day after President Obama was commending the Ayatollah for his supposed (but never evidenced) fatwa against nuclear weapons development, Khamenei told a crowd in Iran’s capital, “Of course yes, death to America, because America is the original source of this pressure.”
“They insist on putting pressure on our dear people’s economy. What is their goal? Their goal is to put the people against the system,” said the Ayatollah. “The politics of America is to create insecurity.”
The Iranian negotiating team left the talks in Switzerland on Friday under unusual circumstances. An unnamed Iranian official told Bloomberg that the entire delegation was flying to Tehran to attend the funeral of the mother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The Washington Post reported that the Iranian team was originally going to break for the Persian new year of Nowruz, but then decided on tentatively staying through the holiday, before they suddenly packed up and left. Others have suggested that the Ayatollah has intervened directly and has pulled back his negotiating team for unknown reasons.
Nevertheless, Secretary of State John Kerry remains optimistic that a framework will be agreed upon by the March 31 deadline. Kerry told reporters over the weekend that “substantial progress” has been made, but “important gaps remain.”
“It’s time to make hard decisions. We want the right deal that would make the world, including the United States and our closest allies and partners, safer and more secure. And that is our test,” added Secretary Kerry.
France remains the most skeptical of the P5+1 that a good deal will come by the deadline. “France wants an agreement, but a robust agreement,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told a French broadcaster. “That is to say, an accord that really guarantees that Iran can obviously have access to the civilian nuclear (program). But to the atomic bomb? No.”