In an orchestrated development, Friday Prayer leaders all over Iran added an anti-negotiation slant to their sermons on May 3, echoing mainly what other military and civilian officials had said during the week.
Leading the prayers in Tehran, hardline cleric Ahmad Khatami said any negotiations with the United States would be tantamount to surrendering to the enemy. "If we put one step back, the United States will come ten step forwards," he said.
He claimed that Iran has been at war with the United States all along the past 40 years, "Only now, it's an economic war," he said, adding another boastful claim to his comments: "We have undermined America's might world over."
While characterizing U.S. President as a "mad man, a bandit, a blackmailer and an ignorant man," Khatami described the American political system as "the most foolish political system in the world," and nevertheless said: "We have no fight with the American people."
During the past few days, other Iranian officials have also made comments along the same lines. IRGC's Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani said, "America wants to drag us to the negotiating table by exerting economic pressure, but negotiating with America would be tantamount to surrendering to the United States.
Deputy Majles Speaker Ali Motahari said in an interview with hardline Shafaqna website, "It is not prudent to hold negotiations with the United States at the time being."
This comes while Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested a prisoners swap with the United States in several interviews during his last week's visit to New York. This led world media to speculate about Iranian official's readiness to sit down at negotiating tables with U.S. officials. However, President Hassan Rouhani ruled out talks with America by saying "We do not negotiate with knife wielders."
Subsequently, Zarif opined that "the United States is not a reliable negotiator," and the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman also made it clear that "There is not going to be any negotiation."
In the meantime, U.S. officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that Iran should meet the 12 conditions the United States set after leaving the nuclear deal with Iran if Tehran wants to return to the international community. The conditions, among other things, call on Iran to change its behavior regarding the nuclear issue, its ballistic missile program and Tehran's regional ambitions.
Pompeo had said that the United States would be happy to negotiate with a "normal state" if Iran meets the 12 preconditions, adding that it would be good even if Iran comes to the negotiating table to discuss those preconditions.
One of the most prominent topics in Friday Prayer sermons in Iran May 3, was references the Imams made to Khamenei's comments about the enemies' "war posture". The Friday Prayers lmam in Mashad, the firebrand Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda suggested that "We should assume a war posture vis-a-vis the enemy's posture." He added that "the United States has already started its economic war against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Friday Prayer leader in Zanjan, Ali Khatami, also repeated the same thing, while criticizing some regional states for "their bragging" against the Islamic Republic.
On a very old note, Lotfollah Dezhakam, the Friday Prayer leader in Shiraz opined that the lifetime of "world imperialism" was coming to an end.
The Friday Prayer leader in Isfahan, Mojtaba Mirdamadi said: "Those who suggest that Ayatollah Khamenei should agree with those who say Iran needs to negotiate with the United States should know that America only wants our misery."
The contents of Friday Prayer sermons delivered by Khamenei's local representative in various cities are dictated by two state bodies close to Khamenei's office, officially known as "The Policy-making Council for Friday Prayer Imams" and the "Friday Prayer Headquarters," both dominated by hardliner clerics.