Seven-nation talks on a deal to curb Iran's nuclear program are running up against a June 30 deadline, and remarks late Tuesday from Iran's supreme leader won't help. In a televised address, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran won't allow a long-term freeze on sensitive nuclear research, won't let international inspectors examine military sites, and won't sign a deal until international sanctions are lifted.
"Freezing Iran's research and development for a long time, like 10 or 12 years, is not acceptable," Khamenei said, seemingly negating a key Western demand that Iran freeze nuclear activity for at least a decade. "Inspection of our military sites is out of the question and is one of our red lines," he added, bolstered by a bill that passed in Iran's parliament on Tuesday that bans International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from accessing military sites and nuclear scientists.
There is a bit of hedging in Khamenei's public declarations, and some experts say the speech was meant to either mollify Iran's hardliners or strengthen the Iranian negotiators' bargaining position. "My best judgment is that this is about leverage," Cliff Kupchan, the chairman of Eurasia Group, tells The New York Times. "This is the last time to get the best possible deal. I think what he's shooting for is the most sanctions relief he can get as soon as he can get it, and the least intrusive inspection regime going forward."
There's a good chance the Iran talks will continue past the June 30 deadline.