Iran’s Supreme Leader said Tuesday morning that Washington’s tactic of “maximum pressure” against his country was futile and that there was no chance of any negotiations taking place with U.S. officials at any level.
U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested he could meet Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week, but Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments appear to rule that out.
“There will be no talks with the U.S. at any level,” Khamenei said during a speech broadcast live on Iranian state TV.
The leader added that Washington's imposition of crippling economic sanctions after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear pact, would not yield the results Trump hoped for.
“If we yield to their pressure and hold talks with Americans, this will show that their maximum pressure on Iran has succeeded. They should know that this policy has no value for us,” Khamenei said.
“In return, we have to prove that the policy is not worth a penny for the Iranian nation,” Khamenei said. “That’s why all Iranian officials, from the president and the foreign minister to all others, have announced that we do not negotiate [with the U.S.] either bilaterally or multilaterally.”
Khamenei made the comments as tensions in the Persian Gulf continue to rise, after the U.S. blamed Iran for mounting a devastating attack on Saudi oil facilities over the weekend, despite the attack being claimed by Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Trump has vacillated between aggression and diplomatic language in recent days. On Sunday he said the U.S. was “locked and loaded” and on Monday said told Tehran that the U.S. could respond “with an attack many, many times larger.”
However, in an apparent attempt to downplay the seriousness of the situation, he added: “I’m not looking at options right now.”
Khamenei did leave one possible avenue back to the negotiating table open, saying that if the U.S.returned to the 2015 nuclear pact that it abandoned last year, talks could resume.
“Otherwise, no talks will happen with the Americans,” he said. “Neither in New York nor anywhere” else.
But Iran’s Supreme Leader could be taking advantage of the fact that he knows the U.S. president doesn’t want to engage in military conflict right now.
“Khamenei’s comments have come in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election, at a time when Iran knows that it is not in the interest of the United States to engage in full-on war,” Lina Khatib, a Middle East expert at London-based think tank Chatham House, told VICE News. “This has given Iran a wide berth to stand up to the American 'maximum pressure' strategy by pushing towards exerting maximum pressure of its own, whether through military skirmishes or through taking a hard-line stance towards negotiations.”
Oil prices have soared in the wake of the attack, which wiped out half of Saudi Arabia’s daily oil production. On Monday, the price of Brent crude, the international benchmark, closed 15 percent higher, the biggest jump in 30 years.
Saudi Aramco, the operator of the oil facilities hit in the attacks, said it could take weeks to repair the damage fully, though it could restore a significant amount of lost production volume within days.
While the U.S. continues to blame Iran, Riyadh has stopped short of publicly blaming Tehran, though it did label the attack an “unprecedented act of aggression and sabotage.”
Cover: In this picture released by the office of the Iranian supreme leader on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to his supporters during his visit to Mashhad, 900 km (540 miles) east of Tehran, Iran. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)