US Secretary of State John Kerry has termed anti-US remarks from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “disturbing.”
Khamenei told supporters on Saturday that US policies in the region were “180 degrees” opposed to Iran’s, at a speech in a Tehran mosque punctuated by chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”. “Even after this deal our policy toward the arrogant US will not change,” Khamenei said.
Kerry, speaking to Al-Arabiya, said: “I don’t know how to interpret it at this point in time, except to take it at face value, that that’s his policy. But I do know that often comments are made publicly and things can evolve that are different. If it is the policy, it’s very disturbing, it’s very troubling, and we’ll have to wait and see.”
Kerry is due to travel to the Gulf early next month to discuss the Iran deal with the region’s leaders.
Gulf officials blame Iran for stoking instability in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria through proxies. Kerry said the meeting with his Gulf counterparts indicates the US as being “very attentive to guaranteeing the security of the region.”
He added: “We are not kidding when we talk about the importance of pushing back against extremism, against support for terrorism and proxies who are destabilizing other countries. It’s unacceptable.” Asked what the upcoming meeting would entail, Kerry said he would “go through in great detail all of the ways in which this (nuclear) agreement, in fact, makes the Gulf states and the region safer.
“I will also discuss with them at great length the things that the US is going to do, working with them, in order to push back against the terror and counterterrorism efforts and other activities in the region that are very alarming to them,” he added.
Under the terms of the deal, Iran will soon get access to over $100 billion of assets frozen abroad, US officials say, equivalent to a quarter of its annual output. Kerry said the figure should not sound alarming.
Asked whether Iran can pose a threat to the Gulf allies through conventional weapons, Kerry said: “Obviously, there are a lot of conventional weapons in the region. But my belief, and I am convinced that, with the right kind of effort, we can find a very different set of arrangements that begin to give people comfort that they really don’t need to fear that the agreement itself is going to change anything.”
He added: “The agreement gets rid of the nuclear weapon potential. But if we do the right things in all of these other sectors, then I believe the Gulf states and the region can feel much more secure than they do today. Obviously, we have to end all of these proxy initiatives, and there are ways to do that.”
But can the deal guarantee Iran will never consider pursuing nuclear ambitions in the future?
“Iran has said it won’t, but again, it’s not words that matter, it’s not a statement; it’s acts, it's actions that you have to measure. And what I do know is that there are very specific inspection and accountability measures that are part of the agreement forever — not for 15 years or 20 years, but forever,” Kerry said.