There are unmistakable signs coming out of Iran that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei is laying the groundwork for a possible deal with the United States. This shift began in February, when Khamenei reaffirmedhis opposition to nuclear weapons on both religious and strategic grounds. The following month, Khamenei praisedPresident Barack Obama’s “good and wise statement” at AIPAC that time for diplomacy still existed, conveniently ignoring that the U.S. leader had also indicated his willingness to undertake military action if necessary. As negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 got underway, Khamenei’s appointees in the clergy, judiciary, and media all sounded a note of optimism. It’s now being reported that Iran is willing to limit the scope of its uranium enrichment.
Most have speculated that Khamenei’s sudden willingness to compromise is the result of his desire to avoid the looming sanctions against Iran’s oil exports. Although there may be some truth to this, at least as important is surely Khamenei’s recent consolidation of power at home. By purging his political competitors, the Supreme Leader has eliminated a significant source of his past opposition to a deal – his fear that his internal opponents would most benefit from it.
The aging Khamenei is also likely thinking of his legacy. Whereas Imam Khomeini is revered for toppling the Shah, creating the Islamic Republic system, and repelling Saddam Hussein’s invasion in 1980, Khamenei’s tenure as Supreme Leader has been rather forgettable. While curbing some of the excesses of the Khomeini era, social and political rights remain restricted, the economy underperforms, and Iran is viewed with suspicion if not hostility abroad. As it stands today, Khamenei’s tenure as Supreme Leader is easily forgotten. By achieving a rapprochement with the United States, Khamenei would ensure himself an eternal spot in Iranian history.
Full article: Khamenei Preparing for a Deal? (The Diplomat)