Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has praised U.S. president Barack Obama for seeking to avoid a war with the Islamic Republic.
Speaking on state-controlled television, Khamenei -- who recently won a decisive power struggle against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in parliamentary -- stated: “Two days ago, we heard the president of America say: ‘We are not thinking of war with Iran.’ This is good. Very good. These are wise words. This is an exit from illusion.”
The Iranian leader also said that Obama’s benevolent remarks present a “window of opportunity” between the two hostile nations.
Earlier in Washington, Obama has been toning down the war rhetoric that has been coming from several quarters – including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who asserted that his country must protect itself from a nuclear Iran and sought assurances that Washington would support the Jewish State if it sought to launch a military strike on Iran.
Obama, for his part, has countered that diplomacy and sanctions are the best way to deal with Tehran. Moreover, the European Union, as a proxy for the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, has accepted an offer from Iran’s top nuclear negotiator to re-start talks on Iran’s atomic program.
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However, Khamenei also criticized Obama for “still harboring illusions” that economic sanctions will pressure Iran to relinquish its nuclear activities.
“[Obama spoke of] ‘bringing the Iranian people to their knees through sanctions.’ This part of his comments shows that the illusion continues, he said on the TV broadcast.
Khamenei also noted that his resounding victory in last week’s parliamentary elections proved that Washington’s efforts to “divide” Iranian people from their political leaders have failed, citing the high voter turnout (65 percent according to election officials).
Ahmad Bakhshayesh, an Iranian analyst, told the Washington Post newspaper that Khamenei’s speech “shows that our [Iran’s] assertive polices are working. The U.S. has no other option than to compromise on our stances and accept our nuclear program.”
Separately, Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and former Middle East advisor to president Bill Clinton, told Australian media that Obama has “bought time” to bring a diplomatic solution to the Iranian crisis.
“The assessment in the U.S. government around the beginning of this year was that there was a pretty high likelihood that Israel would strike Iran's nuclear facilities in the spring,” Indyk said. “There was mobilization of American diplomats and White House officials, the national security adviser made a special visit to Jerusalem and I think as a result of all of that activity and the visit itself there's a sense that the president has bought some time.”
However, Indyk added: “I emphasize the word bought, because in the process he has take containment off the table. You know, he's famous for saying, All options are on the table - that indicates that the military option's on the table. But he's now said that he does not believe it's acceptable to allow Iran to have nuclear weapons and simply look at deterring them, as we do in the case of North Korea for example, and containing them.”