Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Europe has practically pulled out of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and he expects only "backstabbing and treason" from Western European countries.
Criticizing Western countries in his annual speech in Mashad, north-eastern Iran, on the first day of the Iranian New Year March 21, Khamenei said, "The Europeans have practically left the JCPOA, because they have not met their commitments."
Three European states, Germany, France and the UK have set up INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) following the U.S. withdrawal from the deal with Iran in 2018, to help Iran with limited trade despite U.S. sanctions. Iran has also set up its own parallel mechanism, the Special Trade and Finance Institute (STFI) earlier this week. The two trade vehicles are planned to work in tandem, avoiding the use of U.S. dollar and traditional banking transactions.
However, Khamenei called INSTEX a "meaningless" measure and "a bitter joke," adding that "Europeans should have stood up to the U.S. after it left the JCPOA and should have lifted all sanctions against Iran."
Khamenei characterized Western politicians as "savages in the real sense of the word."
Iran has been negotiating for months with Europe over the trade mechanism to circumvent U.S. sanctions, but major European powers are careful as they thread a thin line between Washington and their desire to be the savior of the nuclear deal with Iran.
Tehran was perhaps hoping it could extract more concessions in terms of having wide-ranging trade, but at this point, Europe does not appear ready to allow unlimited exchanges. Iran wants to export its oil to the continent and buy technology, but for Europe it is a step too far.
Iran’s top leader expressed more pessimism saying he did not expect any positive measures from the West. "We can expect conspiracies, treason and backstabbing from Westerners, but we cannot expect them to be honest and helpful," Khamenei said.
Nevertheless, he said he is not against maintaining ties with European countries, "but we should not trust and follow them."
But no matter how bad Europe might be, Khamenei said he "did not know any state in the world as bad as the Saudi government."
Khamenei called the Saudi government "corrupt, despotic; an oppressor and a dictatorship," and he criticized the West for trying to help Saudi Arabia to build its nuclear power industry and develop its missiles, adding that this should not be a problem for Saudi Arabia, because "Saudis are dependent on the West and the West owns their country."
However, Khamenei said that he is not bothered by building a nuclear plant in Saudi Arabia, as it would fall into the hands of militant Muslims or in his words "Islamic Mujahedin."
During recent years, Khamenei's has used his first speech of the year to explain his policies. Usually he also coins a slogan for the new year. This time he promulgated "the year of opportunities, possibilities and openness." This comes at a time when the country's most serious economic and foreign policy crises have left Iran isolated and Khamenei's dogmatism have left little room for flexibility.
Still, he voiced his disagreement with those who call the new year "the year of threats."
Earlier in the day, in his recorded New Year Message he had named the coming year as "the year of boosting production."
Iranians on social media pointed out that every year events have played out exactly contrary to Khamenei's expectations.
In his Mashad speech he recounted the same reasons for Iran’s lagging economy as in all his recent statements: "Part of Iran's problems is due to sanctions imposed by Western powers, and another part is the result of shortcomings and mismanagement in Iran."
However, he said that the same "sanctions, shortcomings and weaknesses can provide opportunities for solving the country's problems," but did not say how.
In another part of the speech, Khamenei insisted on continuing the same policies that have led to problems for his regime. "We shall continue to strengthen our military power in spite of the enemies and will not relent under pressure", ignoring the fact that part of the pressures on Iran is the direct outcome of his insistence to develop ballistic missiles.
Khamenei stressed: "Iran has a strong fist and a powerful hand," adding that Iran should forget about Western help if it wants to turn its economy into a deterrent power, however, he did not say how Iran can do that in the absence of foreign investments, with an economy in crisis.
Yet he said confronting the enemy is not enough and called for reaching the level of "deterrence." "We should reach a stage where the enemy would realize it is not possible to put pressure on Iran” by squeezing its economy.
Khamenei's New Year comments in the past have also been controversial. Last year he claimed that "no one is under pressure in Iran for voicing his or her political views," a statement numerous international human rights reports and even Iranian media sharply contradicted. In 2011, he boasted about achieving major economic and diplomatic milestones; promises he was not able to keep as international sanctions enacted in the same year pushed the economy into recession and the country into isolation.