Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, endorses diplomacy over militarism

Tehran - Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tuesday that his country should embrace diplomacy over militarism, saying it was time for “heroic leniency,” and signaled his embrace of international outreach efforts by new president Hassan Rouhani.

Although Khamenei said the Islamic republic must never abandon its revolutionary ideals and objectives, he said it was time to address Iran’s diplomatic disputes with major world powers.

Earlier Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that Rouhani and President Obama had exchanged letters in recent days.

“I agree with what I called ‘heroic leniency’ years ago, because such an approach is very good and necessary in certain situations, as long as we stick to our main principles,” Khamenei said.

Khamenei’s words were the clearest indication to date that Rouhani’s government has the supreme leader’s support, which will be essential in reaching any deals with the United States and other world powers over Iran’s nuclear activities.

“Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, may not have approval from the Islamic republic establishment as a whole, but at this point it looks increasingly clear that they have the support of Ayatollah Khamenei and other key establishment figures,” said Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council in Washington.

In his speech, Khamenei also rejected the claim made by some world powers that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons and accused such countries of a three-pronged policy of “making wars, poverty and corruption.”

“We do not believe in nuclear weapons because of our beliefs, not for the sake of the U.S. or other countries,” Khamenei said. “And when we say that no country should possess nuclear weapons, we ourselves are definitely not trying to possess them.”

Khamenei delivered his speech at a meeting of members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a day after Rouhani addressed the same group.

Khamenei told the military commanders that “it is not necessary for the IRGC to be active in the political field, but defending the revolution requires that they understand political realities.”

The supreme leader’s comments came just ahead of a scheduled trip to New York by Rouhani and his foreign policy team for the annual U.N. General Assembly.