TEHRAN, Iran (Christian Examiner) – As the United States continues to give ground on the critical issue of how many centrifuges Iran may possess and operate – these are used to spin materials to produce nuclear fuel – Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei responded to a crowd shouting "death to America" in Tehran, Iran, by saying, "Of course yes, death to America because America is the original source of this pressure," referring to the sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy.
Although Iran elected Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric, as president in August of 2013, he is only second in command in Iran which is a Islamic theocracy. Rouhani essentially oversees the economy of Iran, but little else.
It is Ayatollah Khamenei, a hardline Shia cleric, who controls Iran's military, as well as the judiciary, and directs Iran's domestic and foreign policies. Moreover, he alone can declare war and peace.
Consequently, Khamenei's statements as reported by The Times of Israel are foreboding.
The Obama Administration is locked in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear power program in a deal that likely will be defining for the Obama administration as far as foreign policy goes.
A key provision of that deal involves the number of centrifuges Iran will be allowed to operate. It has more than 10,000 in service now, and the United States initially sought to reduce those to between 500 and 1,500 then adjusted its goal to 4,000. Now, according to a report by the AP last week, the U.S. has set a threshold of 6,000 active centrifuges.
Ironically, the greater number of machines is needed to support operations of nuclear reactors which would power the country—the purpose Iran says it intends to pursue—but the lesser number are sufficient to generate enough fuel for an atomic bomb.
Experts agree that enough bomb-grade material could be supplied from the work of as few as 5,000 centrifuges, so the 6,000 centrifuge limit offers little protection from the radical leadership of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons program that would further destabilize this critical region of the world.
Shiite Muslims are a decided minority in the world, composing about 15 percent of the Islamic faithful, globally. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical Iran would decidedly shift the balance of power in the sectarian battle for control which has predominately Shiite Iran competing with predominately Sunni Saudi Arabia for leadership in the Muslim world.
The Sunni extremists who make up Islamic State jihadists invaded Iraq and Syria largely because of abuses by Shia leaders against Sunni populations in those countries.
Meanwhile, the face of moderate Iran, President Rohani, has stated U.S. and his country's negotiators in Lausanne, Switzerland, are nearing agreement on a deal.
Khamenei told the crowd in in Tehran that "arrogant powers" were responsible for bringing about a fall in oil prices which has devastated Iran's economy—which is almost 80 percent dependent on oil production.
According to the Khaleej Times, an English paper published in the United Arab Emirates, he claimed these "enemies,' which presumably include the United States, were attempting to turn Iranians against the Islamic Republic that has been in place since a 1979 coup that toppled the secular government.
"They insist on putting pressure on our dear people's economy," he said. "What's their goal? Their goal is to put the people against the system."