Opinion: Khamenei′s empty threats over the Iran nuclear deal | Opinion | DW | 26.05.2018
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Opinion

Opinion: Khamenei's empty threats over the Iran nuclear deal

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has given the EU extensive conditions if Iran is to stick to the nuclear deal. Yet he is nothing more than a squeaking mouse, writes Jamshid Barzegar.

The only memorable line from the recent statement by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is a reference to the classic American cartoon duo: "Like the famous cat in 'Tom and Jerry,' the US will lose again. We don't doubt for a second that the enemy will be defeated, and those who trust in the teachings of Islam know this."

It is not the first time Khamenei has used the 78-year-old American cartoon series to illustrate America's apparent weaknesses. Tom is the cat who never manages to capture the mouse, Jerry, despite how hard he tries.

Jamshid Barzegar - neuer Leiter der DW Farsi-Redaktion. (DW/B. Scheid)

Jamshid Barzegar heads DW's Farsi desk

"When you look at America, you can only think about the cat, Tom," he said during a meeting seven years ago with then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "A lot of action, noise and fuss, but the result always falls well short of their and their spectators' expectations. It really does depend on how clever you are."

Read moreIran lists tough conditions for Europe to save nuclear deal

Indeed, wit and cunning have allowed Iran to get around sanctionsfor so long. Crooked international oil, commodities and financial operations have led to unprecedented corruption in the Iranian economy. In fact, these "extortionate sanctions" have compelled Iran to declare an end to its nuclear program, or at least submit to strict oversight.

Khamenei's recent reference to "Tom and Jerry" to foretell America's "defeat" need not be taken seriously. Even his rejection of further negotiations with the European Union, which is how his "seven conditions" for staying in the nuclear deal must be seen, have no practical consequences. To the contrary, Iran's negotiators will do everything to secure from the EU at least basic assurances.

Iran's weak position

Given its difficulties at home, Iran is not in a position to refuse an offer and threaten to resume uranium enrichment. Regardless of how clearly Khamenei speaks, his conditions will still ring hollow.

All that his proclamation has succeeded in doing is make life difficult for people like Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign affairs commissioner, and easier for people like US President Donald Trump. Presumably, Khamenei will soon make another address to announce a way out of this situation, in which he will say how it is sometimes smarter to give in so as to appear triumphant in the end.

Iran's leadership will not find the necessary inspiration in "Tom and Jerry." If it, like the supreme leader, does want to stick to a story about a cat, then I recommend "Mouse and Cat"by the medieval Persian poet, Ubayd Zakani. In the story, mice heroically revolt against a cat, but are ultimately eaten by it.

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