Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
(photo credit: LEADER.IR / AFP)
WASHINGTON – Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, praised implementation of the country’s nuclear deal with world powers over the weekend, hailing the end of sanctions on Iran as the result of his successful efforts to resist international pressure.
The lesson of this “victory,” Khamenei said, is that resistance by the Islamic Republic against the West – a key tenet of the 1979 revolution that produced the Islamic government – is working and must continue.
“Current achievements against arrogant, oppressive fronts became possible through resistance,” he said in a statement to state-run media, and also on his account on Twitter – which is banned in Iran.
“We must consider it a great lesson for all of us.”
He also delivered a statement to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is preparing for parliamentary elections next month.
“Economic problems can be solved by constant, wise efforts serving the resistance economy,” Khamenei said. “Removal of sanctions alone is not enough for boosting the economy and improving lives of people.”
Previously, under heavy pressure from sanctions since 2010 over the country’s continued nuclear work, Khamenei proposed that Iran construct a “resistance economy” meant to cope with increasing international isolation.
With sanctions lifted, Chinese and European businesses are now seeking partnerships in Iran – one of the largest untapped economies in the world.
But the supreme leader appears keen on restricting international access to Iran to an extent not yet fully understood. After the nuclear deal was announced in July, he said that Tehran would maintain its bans on certain Western products.
Sanctions relief after the nuclear deal is hard to quantify. While Iran, in total, is expected to have access to roughly $150 billion in frozen assets, much of that has already been obligated to creditors, primarily China, in preexisting trade agreements.
The US Treasury Department, as well as independent experts, expect Iran more likely has access to roughly $56b. in liquid funds now that sanctions were officially relieved on Saturday.
But the relief comes at a particularly painful time for Iran’s economy.
While 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product is in the energy sector, oil remains at a record-low $29 a barrel. To balance its budget, Tehran needs that price to be closer to $145 a barrel.
The nuclear deal reached on July 14 seeks to cap Iran’s nuclear program for a finite period, ensuring it is peaceful in nature, in exchange for sanctions relief. While the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany negotiated the agreement, regional powers, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, oppose the deal, warning that it legitimizes Iran as a nuclear- threshold state.
In his first comments since the deal took effect, Iran’s highest authority made clear that Washington should still be treated with suspicion. He made no mention of a surprise prisoner exchange that also took place this weekend.
“I reiterate the need to be vigilant about the deceit and treachery of arrogant countries, especially the United States, in this [nuclear] issue and other issues,” Khamenei said.
“Be careful that the other side fully meets its commitments. The comments made by some American politicians in last two, three days are suspicious,” he added.
Reuters contributed to this report.