A prominent hardline cleric and several Friday prayers leaders in various parts of Iran have harshly criticized the idea of holding direct talks with the United States.
A statement released recently by more than 100 Iranian activists called for direct talks between Iran and the United States without setting any pre-conditions.
Speaking at the Qom Seminary, hardline cleric Nasser Makarem Shirazi called those who have suggested the talks “US mercenaries, traitors,” reported Tasnim news agency on Friday, June 22.
Makarem Shirazi said in an apparent reference to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s May 21 Iran Strategy statement, “How can you negotiate with the US with these preconditions?”
Addressing Iranian state officials, he said: “Do you want to put an end to the missile program? Do you want to allow everyone to visit your military establishments? Do you want to recognize Israel?”
Meanwhile, conservative cleric Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, Tehran’s Friday prayer leader, opined that “holding direct talks with the United States will not solve any problem.”
“The United States thinks only of its own interests,” said Movahedi Kermani, adding “We should hate the United States wholeheartedly,” and then likening Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the first Imam of the Shia sect whose name also happened to be Ali, he reiterated “We hope that the Ali of our time annihilates this arrogant power.”
Several other Friday prayers leaders across Iran, echoed what their counterparts in Tehran and Qom had said. An indication that attacking the idea of direct talks with the US is a concerted policy dictated from the top of the regime’s leadership.
Mohammad Taqi Lotfi, the Friday prayers leader of Ilam in western Iran used exactly the same words as Makarem Shirazi and called the activists who had suggested the idea of direct talks “US mercenaries and traitors.”
Others such as Mohammad Mokhtari, the Friday prayers leader of Birjand in northeastern Iran, characterized the idea as “treason against the Islamic revolution.”
Most of those on the list of activists who called for talks with Washington are current or former regime insiders, as well as a few leftists whose ideology is marked with opposition to the United States.
The signatories include Gholamhossein Karbaschi (former governor of Isfahan Province and Tehran mayor), Abolfazl Bazargan (son of the first prime minister of the Islamic Republic), Ahmad Montazeri (a mid-ranking cleric and the son of late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the dismissed heir apparent of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini), Jalal Jalalizadeh (a Kurdish former member of the parliament), former Tehran City Councilor Sadiqeh Vasmaqi, former reformist MP Jamileh Kadivar and former members of the Fedayeen Khalq Marxist group Ali Keshtgar and Behrouz Khaleeq.
Their statement referred to the positive global response to President Donald Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un of North Korea, as well as the precarious situation in the Middle East, the signatories to the statement have called for direct talks between Tehran and Washington without setting any pre-conditions.
Iranian officials including Khamenei and IRGC commander Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari have earlier criticized the statement.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has set 12 conditions for starting talks over a new agreement with Iran, and in a lengthy “article” published on Iran’s Foreign Ministry’s website on June 21, and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, set out numerous preconditions of his own for a possible rapprochement between Tehran and Washington.