Comments made on Wednesday by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – which had the cleric boast that Iran has successfully maneuvered Washington past the possibility of using military force against Tehran’s nuclear program – continued to garner attention through Thursday, with the New York Daily News describing the comments as a “direct affront to President Obama’s military strategy”:
Standing on a podium amid banners boasting “America Cannot Do a Damn Thing,” Iran’s supreme leader said Wednesday that President Obama no longer has the guts for battle.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proclaimed in a Tehran taunting speech that “military attack is not a priority for Americans now.”
“They realize that military attacks are as dangerous or even more dangerous for the assaulting country as they are for the country attacked,” the ayatollah said.
The Iranian leader’s remarks were widely viewed as a direct response to President Obama’s recent West Point speech, in which he declared that “some of [America's] most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures.”
The New York Daily News noted that, when asked to comment on Khamenei’s read of the president’s West Point remarks, the White House returned a statement that the White House “reserve[s] all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Khamenei’s speech came a few weeks after a different one, in which he had described the expectation that Iran will address concerns related to its ballistic missile program – an expectation long emphasized by Obama officials, and one that Tehran is legally bound to meet – as “stupid” and “idiotic.”
The stream of comments risk cascading beyond the diplomatic arena, and impacting the ongoing debate between the White House and Congress over the appropriate amount of pressure to bring to bear on Iran. Administration officials have leaned heavily on assertions that new legislation targeting Iran was unacceptable, lest it erode a delicate “Spirit of Geneva” established by the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA). Repeated speeches in which the Iranian Supreme Leader mocks the American president are potentially in tension with those arguments.