The Ayatollah’s Goal

Iran Supreme Leader in 2001: ‘My job is to set Israel on fire’


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei believes his primary job "is to set Israel on fire," according to Spain’s former national security adviser.

Khamenei made the controversial comments during a 2001 breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Rafael Bardaji, Aznar’s former national security adviser.

Anzar, Bardaji, and several other Spanish officials pressed Khameini to explain his role in the Iranian government during the breakfast meeting.

"My job is to set Israel on fire," Khamenei said.

Bardaji and his colleagues were shaken by the comments, which suggest that Khamenei’s anti-Israel bluster is more than just a rhetorical tactic.

Bardaji relayed this story during a recent conference sponsored jointly by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

"Having breakfast with the Supreme Leader of Iran is not something many people can boast of.  But the account of just such an occasion by Rafael Bardaji—former national security advisor to the Spanish Prime Minister—stood out as a highlight of the HJS Iran conference in Westminster," HJS Executive Director Alan Mendoza stated in a press release.

Elliott Abrams, a former Bush administration national security adviser, attended the meeting and later wrote that Khamenei’s comments should inform U.S. policy makers who believe Iran can be rationally negotiated with.

"As we think through the likelihood of arriving at a good negotiated solution with Iran, and the possibility of persuading and pressuring the Supreme Leader to abandon his nuclear weapons program, it is worth keeping this rare encounter with him by a Western democratic leader very much in mind," Abrams wrote on his blog.

Anzar has recalled his meeting with Khamenei in the past. As the Times of Israel reported:

"Israel to him was a kind of historical cancer and anomaly, a country … condemned to disappear," Aznar said, recalling a rare meeting with Khameini in Tehran. "At some point he said very clearly, though softly as he spoke, that an open confrontation against the US and Israel was inevitable, and that he was working for Iran to prevail in such a confrontation. It was his duty as the ultimate stalwart of the Islamic global revolution."

Iran has announced plans to boost its uranium enrichment program, which Western nations suspect is aimed at building a nuclear weapon.

An increase in enrichment could quicken Tehran’s ability to build such a weapon.

The Obama administration has signaled that Tehran’s move is a "further escalation," bringing the two nations even closer to a nuclear showdown.

"The installation of new advanced centrifuges is a further escalation and a continuing violation … of Iran’s obligations under relevant United Nations Security Council and IAEA board resolutions," White House spokesman Jay Carney said last week, according to the Times of Israel.

The Free Beacon has contacted Bardaji for more information about the meeting with Khamenei but he has yet to respond.

Adam Kredo   Email Adam | Full Bio | RSS
Adam Kredo is senior writer reporting on national security and foreign policy matters for the Washington Free Beacon. An award-winning political reporter who has broken news from across the globe, Kredo’s work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary Magazine, the Drudge Report, and the Jerusalem Post, among many others. His Twitter handle is @Kredo0. His email address is

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