After re-imposing the first phase of American economic sanctions against Iran on 6th August, President Trump proposed unconditional talks with Iranian leaders. President Trump’s offer for negotiation surprised the Iranian officials as well as the Iranian dissidents.
Hundreds of Iranian reformists in Iran and abroad welcomed Trump’s unconditional offer for dialogue and asked the Iranian leaders to accept this offer and open a new era for a constructive diplomacy with the Americans that can make an end to 40 years of hostility between the two countries.
During four decades the mullahs in Iran built their legitimacy on anti-Imperialism and anti-American policy but in fact they never stopped negotiations with the Americans in various issues, from Iran hostage crisis where a group of Iranian students loyal to Khomeini took over the US embassy in Tehran in November 1997 and taken 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days, to Lebanon hostage crisis and the Iran–Contra affair in 1985, and later the Iran-US negotiations in the 2001 War on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq’s US-led invasion in 2003, and finally the negotiations with the American officials in 2015 which achieved the Iran nuclear deal with the 5+1 world powers.
Apart from Iran’s nuclear deal in 2015 which engaged Iran in direct talks with the top American officials, all other U.S-Iran negotiations in the past were secret. The Iranian regime describes the U.S. as ‘Great Satan’ and in the last four decades built its legitimacy on the revolutionary principles of Ayatollah Khomeini who was against any kind of relationships with the U.S. even though he approved the secret talks with the U.S. officials during his rule in different occasions including Iran-Contra affair which the U.S. President Ronald Reagan approved the secret sale of arms to Iran through Israel.
After the U.S. withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, and with demand from Iran, Oman and Switzerland offered to mediate between the U.S. and Iran for fresh secret talks, but the U.S. refused this offer and President Trump clearly announced that he is ready to meet the Iranian President Rouhani with no pre-conditions.
This means that the new U.S. administration is not interested in secret talks anymore and wants direct negotiations for a new deal that will include not only the Iranian nuclear program but also the ballistic missiles, Iran’s support for ‘terrorism’, and Iran’s destructive expansionist policy in the Middle East.
Once the Iranian officials realised that the new U.S. administration is not willing to engage in secret negotiations as in the past, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei admitted that he made a mistake when he approved the negotiation with the U.S. officials in 2015 over the nuclear deal.
Khamenei also admitted that although the Iranian negotiators crossed the red lines but the deal did not secure Iran interests. In his speech, Khamenei emphasised that there will be no war with the U.S., but he will not allow any new negotiations with the current U.S. government.
Once again Khamenei criticised the economic policies of the government which increased the inflation rate to the highest level ever, he admitted that the U.S. sanctions had negative impacts on the economy, but he believes that the internal factors such as corruption and lack of clear economic vision are the main problems of Iran’s economy.
Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei sent several messages to the Iranians and his supporters in the Middle East; firstly, he tried to reassure the Iranians who are worried about potential war with the U.S. that there will be no war between the two countries; secondly, Khamenei called for national unity against the foreign enemies, and he urged the Iranian government to deal with the current situation efficiently, control inflation, and restore the people’s trust by tackling corruption and implement new economic policies that improve the economy.
And finally, by rejecting the direct talks with the U.S., he tried to maintain Iran’s anti-American reputation among his supporters and followers in the Middle East who believe in the spiritual and political leadership of Ayatollah Khamenei.
It became certain for Iran’s Khamenei that the U.S. is not willing in secret negotiations, as a result, he decided to pretend that Iran refuses negotiations with the Americans even if they offer unconditional talks, Ayatollah Khamenei understands that direct talks with the Americans is very costly and will damage 40 years of anti-American propaganda which became part of Iran’s revolutionary identity and soft power in its regional expansion policy.
In direct talks, Iran also needs to negotiate a long list of American demands such as; stopping uranium enrichment, ending support to Middle East “terrorist” groups, ending proliferation of ballistic missiles, withdrawing from Syria, etc., in fact, negotiating and accepting these demands will change the identity of the Iranian regime and ends its institutional legitimacy.
These are the reason why the Iranian leaders embarrassed by President’s Trump’s offer for direct talks and finally decided to reject it to avoid any damage to their anti-American reputation and revolutionary principles that the Iranian regime built in the last 40 years to maintain power and expand in the Middle East.