A senior Iranian military leader said on Tuesday that Iran will not acquiesce to Western nuclear negotiators and that the regime is "more distrustful than ever" of the United States, according to state-run media reports.
Western media outlets reported last week that nuclear talks between Iran and the West had ended on an "upbeat" note, with negotiators on both sides giving ground in a bid to reach a final deal.
However, Iranian Armed Forces Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri dismissed these reports on Tuesday, stating that Iran will not be "blackmailed by the cruel West" and that the regime remains committed to pursuing its nuclear endeavors.
Jazayeri’s comments come as the Obama administration considers easing sanctions on Tehran as a sign of good faith during nuclear negotiations.
"Today the Iranian nation is more distrustful of the U.S. than the past, and taking into account the performance of the U.S. administration and certain European countries, including Britain, the Iranians’ suspicion of them is based on tens of strong reasonings [sic] and undisputable documents and evidence," Jazayeri was quoted as saying on Tuesday by Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency.
The military leader’s pointed remarks are a sign that despite targeted leaks to the press about supposed progress in the talks, Iran remains opposed to giving in to the West when it comes to the key issue of enrichment.
Western leaders praised Iran when the most recent round of talks came to an end last week.
Western negotiators "got more today than we've ever gotten" in the most recent talks, a senior U.S. official was quoted as saying following the talks. "There's a whole lot more that we need to get and probably more that Iran wants to get from us."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif also praised the talks.
"I believe that both sides are serious about finding a resolution, that both sides want to find common ground," Zarif was quoted as saying. "And I hope that my counterparts … will also take back home the fact that Iran is interested in resolving this issue."
However, Jazayeri’s Tuesday comments appeared to signal that Tehran might be playing games with Western negotiators, a tactic that other world leaders such as Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have cautioned about in the past.
The Western belief that Iran can be pressured into brokering deal "indicates their (the Westerners’) inadequate understanding of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Jazayeri said.
"The Iranian diplomats will never be blackmailed by the cruel West and the Iranian people are monitoring the performance of both their delegates and the other side with eyes wide open," added the military leader.
One former U.S. defense official warned that Iran negotiators lack the political power to enact a nuke deal. The real power in Tehran lies solely with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has expressed opposition to a nuclear accord.
"When it comes to diplomacy with Iran, there's a common pattern in which Iranian officials don't speak with one voice," said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon advisor on Iran and Iraq. "Cynics could say it's a case of good cop-bad cop, while those prone to see sincerity in their Iranian partners will dismiss such statements as hardliners trying to spoil talks."
As supposedly more moderate Iranian figures such as Zarif and President Hassan Rowhani tout diplomacy and reconciliation, Khamenei and Iran’s hardline military leaders have rejected nuclear negotiations, Rubin said.
"Let's put aside his track record and history and say Rowhani truly wants a deal. The problem is that the supreme leader and the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps]—the two most powerful elements in the Islamic Republic—have already made clear he cannot deliver," Rubin said.
While negotiators on both sides have sought to keep quiet all details of a potential agreement, Iranian sources have leaked certain details to the press.
Iran is reportedly offering to freeze its production of 20-percent enriched uranium and to give up spent nuclear fuel used in its heavy water reactor, according to al Monitor.
Following last week's talks, the Obama administration indicated that it is considering rewarding Iran with some amount of financial relief, according to Bloomberg.