Timeline: Khamenei on U.S.-Iran Talks

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's attitude towards negotiating with the United States has gradually evolved during the last several years. In 2010, he rejected the possibility of holding talks with the United States, saying “Yes, we are ready for negotiations. But not with America.” By 2013, he indicated that he was “not optimistic” about negotiations, but that he was “not opposed” either.

As talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers progressed starting in fall 2013, Khamenei periodically reiterated his support for Iran’s negotiating team and President Hassan Rouhani’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. In 2013, he warned against calling the negotiators “compromisers.”


And in April 2015, a year and a half into talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers, he expressed support for a potential nuclear deal. “I supported negotiators with all my power, and still continue to support them,” he said. “I give my full support to and welcome an agreement.” He even went on to say that the United States and Iran could eventually discuss “other issues” under the right circumstances.

But the Supreme Leader has also consistently caveated these statements to convey his distrust of U.S. intentions, despite his increasing openness to negotiations over the years. “Nonetheless, I have serious concern,” he said in his April 2015 speech. “This concern is due to the fact that the other side is seriously given to deceit and lying and breaching its promises.”
The following is a chronological list of excerpted remarks from Khamenei on negotiating with the United States.
November 3: Supreme Leader’s Address to Students on the Occasion of 13th of Aban
“Sometimes they made some apparently conciliatory comments. But whenever they gave the Islamic Republic's officials a smile, we noticed that they were hiding a dagger behind their back. They have not stopped threatening us. Their intentions have not changed. Tactical smiles can only deceive children. A great, experienced nation [Iran] and its elected officials have to be very naïve to be taken in by their smiles.”
August 18: Speech to Government Officials
“Yes, we are ready for negotiations, but not with America. The reason is that unlike ordinary negotiators, America does not enter into negotiations in an honest fashion. America enters into negotiations the way an imperialist does.
“We do not negotiate because of the consequences. We do not negotiate just because they are not real negotiators. They only want to bully us. They are like the thug who enters a shop and asks, "How much is this jar of honey?" The shopkeeper replies, "100 tomans." Then the thug grabs the shopkeeper and twists his arm. The poor shopkeeper is understandably intimidated and says, "The price is whatever you say!" The bully says, "30 tomans." The shopkeeper says, "30 tomans it is!" What kind of bargaining is this? They may twist the arm of other countries and force them to give in to their demands, but they cannot do this to the Islamic Republic. The Islamic Republic will not give in to such pressures, and it will respond to every pressure in its own way. If they do not resort to bullying and step down from the ladder of imperialism - which is a rotten ladder - we will not have problems with negotiations. But negotiations are impossible as long as they behave like that.”

June 3: Supreme Leader’s Speech at Imam Khomeini’s (r.a.) Shrine
“Of course, westerners - especially the Americans - make senseless moves. They magnify the nuclear issue in order to cover up their own problems. They dishonestly put the nuclear issue of Iran at the top of global issues. They deceitfully mention "nuclear weapons.” They deceitfully magnify certain issues in their propaganda. Their goal is to divert minds and public opinion from the events that are happening in America and in Europe. Of course, they will not succeed.”
Feb. 7: Supreme Leader's Speech to Air Force Commanders and Personnel         
“Negotiations with America will not solve any problems. When did they keep their promises? Over the past 60 years, since the coup d'état of the 28th of Mordad of 1332 until today, the officials of our country have been harmed whenever they trusted the Americans.”
“During a certain period after the Revolution, the officials of the country trusted them. But the politicians of the American government labeled Iran as "axis of evil". It is you who are the embodiment of evil.”
“Negotiations and offer of negotiations are not compatible with pressures. Negotiations and pressures are two different paths. It is not possible for the Iranian nation to accept negotiations under pressures and threats, with those who make threats. What should we negotiate for?”

March 21: Supreme Leader Meets with Pilgrims at Imam Ridha’s (a.s.) Shrine  
“The Americans have been sending messages for some time asking Iran to hold separate negotiations with them regarding the nuclear issue, but on the basis of our past experiences I am not optimistic about such negotiations.”
“Of course, I am not opposed either.”
June 26: Speech to judiciary officials
“Resolving the nuclear issue with the Islamic Republic is an easy and smooth matter due to the nature of the Islamic Republic. However, when the other side does not want this issue to be resolved, the conditions would be no better than they are.”
“The goal is to threaten. The goal is to pressure. The goal is to make us tired. They themselves announced that their goal is to change the political system and the political mechanisms. Of course, in the statements they make in private meetings or in the letters that they sometimes write, they say that they are not after a regime change. However, they clearly show the opposite in their statements and actions. They are hostile towards a nation that refuses to surrender to their rule, a nation that refuses to act the way they want, a nation whose actions are against their will.”
Sept. 17: Speech to Revolutionary Guards Commanders
“I am not against proper political moves in diplomacy. I believe in what was named many years ago as ‘heroic flexibility.’”
Flexibility “in certain circumstances is positive and necessary.”
“A wrestler sometimes shows flexibility for technical reasons. But he should not forget who his opponent and enemy is.”

Nov. 3: Remarks to Students
“I am not optimistic about the negotiations but, with the grace of God, we will not suffer losses either… All the better if the negotiations bear fruit but if there are no results, the country should rely on itself.
“The Americans smile and express desire for negotiation; on the other hand, they immediately say that all options are on the table… We should not trust a smiling enemy.
“No one should see our negotiating team as compromisers. They are our own children and children of the revolution. They have a difficult mission, and no one has the right to weaken an official who is doing his job.
April 9: Address to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran
“The purpose of agreeing with these negotiations was to change the atmosphere of hostility that the camp of arrogance [the West] has created against Iran. These negotiations should continue, but everyone should know that despite this, the activities of the Islamic Republic in the area of nuclear research and development will not stop in any way. None of the nuclear achievements of the country can be given up. Besides, the relations of the International Atomic Energy Agency with Iran should be normal and ordinary relations.
Another plot that global arrogance [the West] has tried very hard to implement against the Islamic Revolution is to influence the major policies of Iran and to shatter the willpower of the political management of the country. But the camp of arrogance has failed to do this until today and by Allah's favor, it will continue to fail in the future.”
October: Khamenei’s Red Lines on Nuclear Talks
In October and September, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office released three infographics outlining his support for nuclear talks, Iran’s red lines and principles of Iranian diplomacy.
Feb. 8: Speech in Meeting with Air Force Commanders and Personnel 
“I consent to an agreement that is workable. Of course, I do not mean a bad agreement. The Americans constantly repeat, "We believe that making no agreement is better than making a bad one". We too have the same opinion. We too believe that making no agreement is better than making an agreement that is to the disadvantage of national interests, one that leads to the humiliation of the great and magnificent people of Iran.”
 “We are satisfied with the progress that our governmental officials have begun. They are making efforts. They are really making efforts and they are putting time and energy into it. If they make a good agreement, it is fine by us. I myself agree with that and I am sure that the people of Iran are not opposed to an agreement which preserves their dignity, respect and interests. However, these requirements should undoubtedly be considered. The respect and dignity of the people of Iran and the fundamental issue of the progress of the Iranian nation should be preserved and protected.”
March 21: Nowruz Speech
“Obama’s Nowrouz message included dishonest assertions and his claim of friendship for Iranian people was not sincere.”
“They [the Americans] say [to Iranian negotiators] ‘you come here and listen to what we say and implement them word for word’. But our nation will resist against it and will never accept this.”
“We will not negotiate with the U.S. on domestic, regional and arms issues at all since the U.S. policy in the region is based on stirring insecurity and confrontation with the regional states and Islamic Awakening which runs counter to the pivotal policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” 
April 9: Leader's remarks on anti-Iran sanctions and Yemen developments 
“Some people have asked, and still ask, why I have taken no position on the nuclear issue? The answer is that there is no ground for taking a position. Our officials, nuclear officials, and consultants are telling me that nothing has been done yet; nothing binding has taken place between the two sides. What position [I am supposed to take on this]? If they asked me whether I am for or against [nuclear understanding], I would say I neither agree, nor oppose it because nothing has taken place yet; nothing has been done yet. All the problem is about those details that they are expected to sit and hash out every one of them.”
“Despite [the fact that] I was not optimistic about negotiations with the America, I did not oppose this case of negotiations. I agreed to it. I supported negotiators with all my power, and still continue to support them. I give my full support to and welcome an agreement, which would meet the interests of the Iranian nation and maintain the dignity of the Iranian nation; everybody should know this. If somebody says that I am opposed to, for example, an agreement or with reaching a point, no [this is not true and whoever saying that] has said something untrue and against the truth.”
“Nonetheless, I have serious concern. This concern is due to the fact that the other side is seriously given to deceit and lying and breaching its promises and moving in the opposite of correct direction.”
“At present, we do not negotiate with  America on any other issue; nothing. Everybody should know this. Neither on regional issues, nor on various domestic issues, nor on international issues. Today, the only topic for discussion and negotiations is the nuclear issue. Now, this will become an experience. If the other side gives up its usual diversionary tactics, this will become an experience for us that, very well, we can negotiate with them on other issues. However, if we see that the diversionary tactics that we have always seen from them still continue and they are going sideways, well, it will naturally strengthen our past experience.
May 6: Address to teachers
“Never allow the other side to impose its will, exercise force, humiliate or threaten you.”
“They [Americans] are deeply in need to make this claim that they have made Iran sit to the negotiating table and imposed certain points on it.”
May 27: Meeting with lawmakers
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to rein in parliament after a heated exchange between a lawmaker and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

June 23: Speech on national television

Khamenei issued seven specific red lines for the talks, some of which contradicted the White House fact sheet on the framework announced on April 2 by Iran and the world's six major powers. For example, the supreme leader rejected long-term restrictions of 10 years or more on research and development.