October 22, 2015 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1196

Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei's Letter Of Guidelines To President Rohani On JCPOA Sets Nine Conditions Nullifying Original Agreement Announced July 14, 2015

October 22, 2015 | By Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1196

On October 21, 2015, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei published a letter of guidelines to Iranian President Hassan Rohani on the execution of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The letter's publication coincides with the days of the Ashura that are of vital religious and national significance in Iran and symbolize steadfastness against the forces of evil. Intended as an historical document aimed at assuring Iran's future, the letter was posted on Khamenei's website in Persian and tweeted from his Twitter account and posted on his Facebook page in English (see Appendices), and published in English by the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting authority IRIB (see below). The letter is now a founding document in all things concerning the JCPOA and the conditions under which Iran will be willing to execute it.

The letter, defined by Khamenei on his website as "conditional approval" of the JCPOA, sets several new conditions for Iran's execution of the agreement. These conditions constitute late and unilateral additions to the agreement concluded three months previously that fundamentally change it. Khamenei stresses that the agreement awaits his opinion following what he calls "precise and responsible examination" in the Majlis and "clearance of this agreement through legal channels" in Iran's Supreme National Security Council.  

It should be further noted that in his introduction to the new conditions, Khamenei attacks the U.S. and President Obama with great hostility, and calls for Obama to be prosecuted by international judiciary institutions. He states that Obama had sent him two letters declaring that he has no intention of subverting the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but adds that the U.S.'s support for fitna in Iran (i.e. the popular post-election unrest in 2009), its monetary aid to opponents of the Republic, and its explicit threats to attack Iran have proven the opposite and have exposed the real intent of America's leaders, whose enmity towards Iran will not end. He wrote that the Americans' behavior in the nuclear talks is another link in the chain of its enmity towards Iran, that America entered into the talks with the aim of "deception," and that therefore Iran must remain alert in light of America's hostile intentions.

The set of conditions laid out by Khamenei creates a situation in which not only does the Iranian side refrain from approving the JCPOA,[1] but, with nearly every point, creates a separate obstacle, such that executing the agreement is not possible.

The following are Khamenei's nine conditions, and their implications:

Khamenei's Conditions For Iranian Execution Of The JCPOA

First condition: Khamenei demands that the U.S. and Europe lift the sanctions, not suspend them, and in addition demands "solid and sufficient" guarantees in advance that this will be done, before Iran takes its own steps and meets its own obligations under the agreement. These guarantees, insists Khamenei, must include, inter alia, an official letter from the U.S. president and from the EU undertaking to fully lift the sanctions. Furthermore, he demands that this letter will state that any declaration by the West that the "structure of the sanctions will remain in force" (i.e. allowing snapback) will be considered "non-compliance with the JCPOA" on the part of the West.

Implications: These conditions constitute a total change of the JCPOA. Khamenei is not allowing any execution of the JCPOA by Iran until this is accepted in writing by the other side, and thus he is nullifying the JCPOA as agreed upon on July 14, 2015.

Second condition: Any sanctions against Iran "at every level and on every pretext," including terrorism and human rights violations, by any one of the countries participating in the negotiations will "constitute a violation of the JCPOA," and a reason for Iran to stop executing the agreement.

Implications: This demand, that links the JCPOA to other issues and prohibits any punishment of Iran on any issue and for any reason, serves as an excuse for Iran to cancel the agreement.

Third condition: Under the JCPOA, Iran is obligated, following the JCPOA's Adoption Day, to carry out its obligations concerning changing the function of the nuclear reactor at Arak and shipping out most of its stockpile of enriched uranium. Contrary to this, Khamenei is changing the timetable of the JCPOA, stating that Iran will not carry out these actions until after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declares that it is closing its dossier on Iran's "past and future issues (including the so-called Possible Military Dimensions or PMD of Iran's nuclear program)."

Implications: This demand to change the timetable creates a situation in which Iran will not take action as stipulated in the JCPOA, and will not meet its obligations, before the sanctions are eased, also according to the JCPOA, but instead dictates that the sanctions must first be lifted completely and states that only then will Iran meet its obligations. Khamenei here is creating a situation in which the IAEA will not be able to report on Iran's meeting of its obligations regarding the Arak reactor and regarding the shipping out of its enriched uranium by the target date of December 15, 2015, because Iran is not going to do so by then - thus the execution of the agreement is thwarted from the beginning. 

Fourth condition: Iran will meet its obligations to "renovate" and change the purpose of the Arak reactor only after there is a signed agreement on an "alternative plan" for changes to the reactor, and after there is "sufficient guarantee" that this alternative plan will be implemented.

Implications: Iran's fulfillment of its obligations regarding the Arak reactor, as stipulated by the JCPOA, will be postponed until some unknown future date.

Fifth condition: Iran will carry out its obligation to ship out its enriched uranium to another country in exchange for yellowcake "on a gradual basis and on numerous occasions," and only after "a secure agreement has been clinched to that effect, along with sufficient guarantees" that this exchange will be implemented.

Implications: The date for Iran to ship out its enriched uranium as stipulated by the JCPOA is postponed until some unknown future date. Khamenei is demanding that Iran receive in exchange for the enriched uranium not raw uranium as per the JCPOA, but instead uranium that has been enriched, albeit to a lower level than the uranium it ships out. This is yet another change to the JCPOA as concluded on July 14, 2015.

Sixth condition: Khamenei instructs President Rohani to begin, along with reducing Iran's ability to enrich uranium under the JCPOA, immediately to expand Iran's ability to enrich uranium with a 15-year long-term plan for 190,000 centrifuge SWU (Separative Work Units). "This plan," he says, "must allay any concern stemming from some points entailed in the JCPOA appendices."

Implications: This article nullifies the declared goal of the JCPOA, which is to reduce Iran's nuclear enrichment capabilities.

Seventh condition: The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization must ensure continued nuclear research and development, in its various dimensions, such that in eight years' time, Iran will not be lacking in enrichment technology. This, he says, is all in accordance with the JCPOA.

Eighth condition: In the event of doubt or ambiguity regarding the content of the JCPOA, the source of authority for removing this doubt or ambiguity will be the content of the talks - i.e. it will also include the statements by the Iranian side, not just the "interpretation provided by the opposite party," that is, the P5+1.

Implications: Any doubt or ambiguity regarding the content of the JCPOA will become the source of unending dispute and will paralyze any possibility of executing the agreement.

Ninth condition: Due to apprehensions that the other side, particularly the U.S., will break its promises or cheat, President Rohani must establish a "well-informed and smart panel" to monitor the execution of the agreement.

Implications: Khamenei is creating an administrative framework for perpetual delays in the execution of the agreement.

Khamenei adds also a 10th condition, directed at Iran, not the P5+1, demanding that Rohani take seriously his instructions in the matter of the "resistance economy," the main thrust of which is self-reliance instead of basing Iran's economy on external sources. He also demands that after the sanctions are lifted, there will be no "unbridled imports," and no imports whatsoever from the U.S.

Political Ramifications In Iran

In February 2016, elections for the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts are set to take place in Iran. The pragmatic camp, headed by Hashemi Rafsanjani and President Rohani, had hoped that a quick execution of the agreement would allow the sanctions to be eased and funds to be released immediately, which in turn would allow the pragmatic camp to present these achievements and triumph in the elections. By setting these conditions, however, Khamenei has thwarted any speedy execution of the agreement, and thus has thwarted the pragmatic camp's hope for electoral success.

IRIB Translation

The following is the official English translation of Khamenei's letter, as published by IRIB.[2] This translation was tweeted by Khamenei and also posted on his Facebook page (see Appendix I and II).

"Wednesday, 21 October 2015 17:41
"Ayatollah Khamenei sends a letter to President Hassan Rouhani about the JCPOA


"Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a letter to President Hassan Rouhani, who also heads the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), referred to the precise and responsible examination of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (parliament) and also the SNSC, and the clearance of this agreement through legal channels, and issued important instructions regarding the observation of and safeguarding the country's national interests. Enumerating nine-point requirements for the implementation of the JCPOA, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei endorsed SNSC Resolution 634, dated August 10, 2015, provided that the following provisions and requirements are observed.

"The full text of Ayatollah Khamenei's letter follows on:

"In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

"Your Excellency,  Mr Rouhani,
"President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Head of the Supreme National Security Council
"May God bestow success upon you.
"Greetings to You

"The agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has already been cleared through legal channels following precise and responsible examinations in the Islamic Consultative Assembly, [parliamentary] ad hoc committees and other committees as well as the Supreme National Security Council. Since the agreement is waiting for my view, I deem it necessary to remind several points so that Your Excellency and other officials directly or indirectly involved in the issue would have enough time to comply with and safeguard national interests and the country's best interests.

"1. Before anything else, I deem it necessary to extend my gratitude to all those involved in this challenging procedure throughout all its periods, including the recent nuclear negotiating team whose members tried their best in explaining the positive points and incorporating all those points [into the agreement], critics who reminded all of us of weak points through their appreciable meticulousness, and particularly the chairman and members of the Majlis ad hoc committee [set up to review the JCPOA] as well as the senior members of the SNSC who covered some voids by including their important considerations, and finally the Speaker of Majlis and Members of Parliament who adopted a cautious bill to show the right way of implementation [of the agreement] to the administration, and also national media and the country's journalists who despite all their differences of view presented a complete image of this agreement to public opinion. This voluminous collection of activity and endeavors and thoughts [spent] on an issue which is thought to be among the unforgettable and instructive issues of the Islamic Republic, deserves appreciation and is a source of satisfaction. Therefore, one can say with certainty that the divine reward for these responsible contributions will, God willing, include assistance and mercy and guidance by Almighty God because the divine promises of assistance in exchange for assisting His religion are unbreakable.

"2. Enjoying decades-long background of presence in the very details of the affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, you must have naturally realized that the government of the United States of America, neither in the nuclear issue nor in any other issue, had been pursuing no other approach but hostility and disturbance, and is unlikely to do otherwise in the future either. The remarks by the US President [Barack Obama] in two letters addressed to me on the point that [Washington] has no intention of subverting the Islamic Republic of Iran turned out to be unreal and his open threats of military and even nuclear strike, which can result in a lengthy indictment against him in international courts, laid bare the real intentions of US leaders. Political pundits and public opinion of many nations clearly understand that the case of his never-ending hostility is the nature and identity of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is born out of the Islamic Revolution. Insistence on rightful Islamic stances and opposition to the hegemonic and arrogant system, perseverance against excessive demands and encroachment upon oppressed nations, revelations on the US support for medieval dictators and suppression of independent nations, incessant defense for the Palestinian nation and patriotic resistance groups, rational and globally popular yelling at the usurping Zionist regime constitute the main items which make the US regime's enmity against the Islamic Republic inevitable, and this enmity will continue as long as the Islamic Republic [continues to] disappoint them with its internal and sustainable strength. 

"The behavior and words of the US government in the nuclear issue and its prolonged and boring negotiations showed that this (nuclear issue) was also another link in their chain of hostile enmity with the Islamic Republic. Their deception through flip-flopping between their initial remarks that came after Iran accepted to hold direct talks with them and their constant non-compliance with their pledges throughout two-year-long negotiations and their alignment with the demands of the Zionist regime and their bullying diplomacy regarding relations with European governments and bodies involved in the negotiations are all indicative of the fact that the US's deceitful involvement in the nuclear negotiations has been done not with the intention of a fair settlement [of the case], but with the ill intention of pushing ahead with its hostile objectives about the Islamic Republic. 

"Doubtlessly, vigilance vis-à-vis the hostile intentions of the US government and instances of resistance on the part of the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran throughout the negotiations managed, in numerous cases, to prevent heavy damage from being inflicted [upon Iran].

"However, the outcome of the negotiations, which is enshrined in the JCPOA, has numerous ambiguities and structural weaknesses that could inflict big damage on the present and the future of the country in the absence of meticulous and constant monitoring.

"3. The nine-point provisions entailed in the recent bill adopted by the Majlis and the 10-point instructions outlined in the resolution of the Supreme National Security Council carry helpful and effective points which must be taken into consideration. Meantime, there are some other necessary points which are announced here while some of the points mentioned in the two documents are highlighted. 

"First, since Iran has accepted to negotiate basically for the objective of removal of unjust economic and financial sanctions and its enforcement (the lifting of sanctions) is tied to Iran's future actions under the JCPOA, it is necessary that solid and sufficient guarantees be arranged to avoid any infraction by the opposite parties. Written declaration by the US president and the European Union for the lifting of the sanctions is among them. In the statements of the EU and the US president, it must be reiterated that these sanctions will be fully lifted. Any declaration that the structure of the sanctions will remain in force shall imply non-compliance with the JCPOA.  

"Second, throughout the eight-year period, any imposition of sanctions at any level and under any pretext (including repetitive and fabricated pretexts of terrorism and human rights) on the part of any of the countries involved in the negotiations will constitute a violation of the JCPOA and the [Iranian] government would be obligated to take the necessary action as per Clause 3 of the Majlis bill and stop its activities committed under the JCPOA .

"Third, the measures related to what is mentioned in the next two clauses will start only after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announces [the conclusion of] the past and future issues (including the so-called Possible Military Dimensions or PMD of Iran's nuclear program).

"Fourth, measures to renovate the Arak plant by preserving its heavy [water] nature will start only after a firm and secure agreement has been signed on an alternative plan, along with sufficient guarantees for its implementation. 

"Fifth, the deal with a foreign government for swapping enriched uranium with yellow cake will start only after a secure agreement has been clinched to that effect, along with sufficient guarantees [for its implementation]. The aforesaid deal and exchange must be done on a gradual basis and on numerous occasions. 

"Sixth, by virtue of the Majlis bill, the plan and the necessary preparations for mid-term development of the atomic energy industry, which includes the method of advancement in different periods of time for 15 years for the final objective of 190,000 SWU, must be drawn up and carefully reviewed by the Supreme National Security Council. This plan must allay any concern stemming from some points entailed in the JCPOA appendices. 

"Seventh, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran must organize research and development in different aspects such that after the end of the eight-year period, there would be no shortage of technology for the level of [uranium] enrichment entailed in the JCPOA.

"Eighth, it must be noted that on the ambiguous points in the JCPOA document, the interpretation provided by the opposite party is not acceptable and the reference would be the text of the negotiations.  

"Ninth, the existence of complications and ambiguities in the text of the JCPOA and the suspicion of breach of promise, infractions and deception by the opposite party, particularly the US, require that a well-informed and smart panel be established to monitor the progress of affairs and [gauge] the opposite party's commitment and realization of what was mentioned above. The composition and the tasks of this would-be panel should be determined and approved by the Supreme National Security Council.

"In witness whereof, Resolution 634, dated August 10, 2015, of the Supreme National Security Council, is endorsed pending the observation of the aforementioned points.

"In conclusion, as it has been notified in numerous meetings to you and other government officials and also to our dear people in public gatherings, although the lifting of sanctions is a necessary job in order to remove injustice [imposed on people] and regain the rights of the Iranian nation, economic overture and better livelihood and surmounting the current challenges will not be easy unless the Economy of Resistance is taken seriously and followed up on entirely. It is hoped that this objective will be pursued with full seriousness and special attention would be paid to enhancing national production. You should also watch out so that unbridled imports would not follow the lifting of sanctions, and particularly importing any consumer materials from the US must be seriously avoided.

"I pray to Almighty God for your and other contributors' success. 
"Source: www. leader. ir"

*Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; A. Savyon is Director of the MEMRI Iran Project.

Appendix I: Khamenei's Letter On Twitter[3]

Appendix II: Khamenei's Letter On Facebook[4]


[2], October 21, 2015.

[3], October 21, 2015.

[4], posted October 21, 2015.

Share this Report: