Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s March 21st New Year address mostly dwelt on domestic political issues. But the Iranian leader also made a few references to the most pressing foreign and security issues, none of which bode well for Iran’s relations with the United States. Moreover, Khamenei tried to calm growing public anger amongst Iranians about the country’s costly military interventions in the Middle East.
Looking back at the Iranian year 1396 (March 2017 – March 2018), Ayatollah Khamenei said: “In the course of the past year, the Islamic Republic played an important role in breaking the backbone of the takfiris [a reference to Sunni radicals] in the region. The Islamic Republic managed to free the people from the evil of the takfiris in important parts of the region and establish security.”
Referring to US criticism of Tehran’s foreign policy, the supreme leader derogatorily said: “Now, some busybodies who want to meddle in internal affairs of all regions of the world are protesting why Iranians are participating in the issues of Iraq, Syria and the like…? Well, that is none of your business.”
The defiant Ayatollah Khamenei further claimed: “The Islamic Republic managed to neutralize the American scheme in the region. What was the American plan? It was to create the villainous, unjust and irreverent groups such as Daesh [ISIS] in an attempt to divert attention from the occupying Zionist regime. It wanted [Middle Eastern countries] to be busy fighting internal wars… This is the scheme which we managed to neutralize.”
Turning to Afghanistan, Khamenei said: “The Americans have been in Afghanistan for fourteen years. What the hell did they do? Did they manage to create security in Afghanistan? Not at all! They could not… or they did not want to.”
Defending the Islamic Republic’s record of regional military interventions, Khamenei said: “Wherever we went, it was because regional states and nations asked us to. We did not bully [our way in]. We did not hesitate. We did not meddle in the affairs of [other] states. They asked for assistance, and we helped with rational and logical motives – let everyone be aware of that. It is not that anyone has acted upon sentiments…”
Comment: While Khamenei was addressing the United States and its allies, he was clearly trying to convince the Iranian public that Iran’s regional adventurism served the country’s national interest. Clearly, slogans of disadvantaged Iranians protesting against Iran’s national wealth being squandered in Syria rather than secure the welfare of Iranians have reached the ears of the Ayatollah. Just as clearly, Khamenei believes more in his art of persuasion than the wisdom of changing policy according to the popular will.