Iran’s supreme leader made his sharpest criticism yet of his country’s president on Monday, faulting him for having crossed “red lines” in nuclear negotiations with the United States and other failures that have created an economic crisis.

The remarks by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, compounded the pressure on Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, who is contending with economic protests, anger over endemic corruption, the threat of possible armed conflict with the United States and calls from Iran’s hard-line factions for resignations in his government.

Mr. Rouhani’s promises that the 2015 nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers would lead to an economic revival in Iran have been thwarted since the Trump administration renounced the agreement in May and moved to restore American sanctions.

Over the past three months, Iran’s currency has plunged in value and large multinational companies have scrapped plans to do business in Iran, intimidated by the strong threat of financial penalties in the United States.

Ayatollah Khamenei said Monday that because of the insistence of Mr. Rouhani and his team, he had allowed them to negotiate the nuclear agreement, in which Iran curbed its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. However, Ayatollah Khamenei said, Iranian negotiators surrendered too much and “trespassed the red lines that had been set.”

Were it not for his own advice to Mr. Rouhani, the ayatollah said, “we would have given up more.”

Ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks, in a speech reported on state-run media and excerpted on his website and Twitter accounts, show how he has sought to distance himself from Mr. Rouhani. The remarks also amounted to his first public rejection of President Trump’s offer two weeks ago of unconditional talks with Iran.

While other Iranian officials, including Mr. Rouhani, already had spurned the offer, Ayatollah Khamenei’s rejection is considered the final word.

“The Islamic Republic can negotiate with America whenever it achieves the power to resist America’s pressure and blackmail,” the ayatollah said. “Today this is not the case.”

Invoking the admonition of Iran’s revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to never negotiate with the United States, Ayatollah Khamenei said, “I prohibit it as well.”

His remarks came as Iran’s military flexed its muscle, showing a new generation of short-range missiles after conducting war-game maneuvers last week in the Persian Gulf, where warships of the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet also patrol.

Most outside analysts say Iran is not interested in armed conflict with the United States. Ayatollah Khamenei used the opportunity to also make it clear that Iran was not seeking a fight, even as he denounced the Americans in his own version of a Trump-style Twitter posting.

“Beside sanctions, they are talking about war and negotiations,” he said. “In this regard, let me say a few words to the people: THERE WILL BE NO WAR, NOR WILL WE NEGOTIATE WITH THE U.S.”

Ayatollah Khamenei’s virulent hostility toward the United States is well known, and he has said before that the Trump administration’s repudiation of the nuclear agreement had proved his suspicion — which he expressed to Mr. Rouhani — that the Americans could not be trusted.

But analysts who follow Iran’s opaque politics said his criticism on Monday was sharper in assigning blame to Mr. Rouhani.

“My sense is that Khamenei is throwing Rouhani under the bus, in a number of ways,” said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, an Iran expert and political science professor at Syracuse University.

While Ayatollah Khamenei also blamed himself for having approved the nuclear negotiations, the professor said, “he’s transferring the guilt to Rouhani.”

The ayatollah’s criticisms do not presage the political downfall of Mr. Rouhani, a moderate cleric who is in the last three years of his second term.

On the contrary, Ayatollah Khamenei also made it clear to the hard-line factions in Iran’s hierarchy that he disapproved of their efforts to sabotage Mr. Rouhani’s administration.

“Those who call on the government to step down are playing a part in the enemy’s plot,” he said. “The government should remain and carry on with its responsibilities with authority to solve problems.”

Henry Rome, an Iran analyst at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm in Washington, said Ayatollah Khamenei might have weighed in because the possibility of talks with Mr. Trump still was publicly discussed in Iran.

“We hadn’t heard from him since Trump made repeated overtures,” Mr. Rome said, and despite Mr. Rouhani’s rejection of such talks, “there was a debate going on in Iran — it wasn’t a taboo subject — so Khamenei had to come out and say something.”

Ayatollah Khamenei spoke a week after the first round of the restored American sanctions took effect, restricting Iran’s use of dollars and its business in gold, metals, aviation, automobiles and other industries.

The second — and far more onerous — round of restored sanctions will take effect in November, when the Trump administration has warned that buyers of Iran’s oil — its most important export — could face American penalties.

Source » nytimes