The surprise landslide for moderate Hassan Rouhani to the Iranian presidency over the weekend offers no guarantee that the Islamic Republic will soften its position on its problematic nuclear program.
But the man who holds ultimate power in the theocracy — Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, whose title is Supreme Leader — is as at least as much a politician as he is a cleric. And as it happens, in a major speech earlier this year, Khamenei laid out what some understood as a road map for a negotiated ending to the nuclear confrontation.
The glimmers of hope shone through the grit and haze that envelopes the eastern Iranian city of Mashhad, Khamenei’s home town, and the place he chose to deliver an address that appeared to declare victory in the conflict over Iran‘s intentions for its nuclear program. The occasion was Nowruz, the spring festival Iranians traditionally mark as Persian New Year.
Khamenei was addressing a gathering of pilgrims to a local religious shrine, and talking mostly about how Persian year 1391, which had just ended, “was one of the busiest years for our enemies.” Meaning, he added, “the American government.”
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