By: Eli Leon, Daniel Siryoti, Yoni Hersch, Israel Hayom—
Iran will never recognize Israel, a top aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated on Sunday. “Iran will not recognize Israel,” Ali Akbar Velayati said. “We still emphasize that Israel is a usurper and occupying regime.”
Last week, another top Iranian official said Iran’s anti-Israel policies remain in place.
“Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all,” Hossein Sheikholeslam, an international affairs adviser to the speaker of the Iranian parliament, said. “Israel should be annihilated, and this is our ultimate slogan.”
The comments of Velayti and Sheikholeslam came following British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond’s recent visit to Tehran, during which Hammond claimed that the current Iranian government, led by President Hassan Rouhani, has displayed a more nuanced approach toward Israel than previous Iranian governments.
Meanwhile, Iran has barred conductor Daniel Barenboim from entering the country because of his Israeli citizenship. Barenboim, the general music director of the Berlin State Opera, had been planning to hold a concert in Tehran.
“We have no problem with the German orchestra coming to Iran, but we are opposed to the person leading that group,” an Iranian Culture Ministry spokesperson was quoted by AFP as saying. “He has multiple nationalities, and one of them is Israeli. For security reasons and to prevent issues following the entry of certain people into Iran, we stopped it.”
On Saturday, Rouhani said he opposes a vote by the Iranian parliament on the landmark nuclear deal reached with world powers last month, because terms of the agreement would turn into legal obligations if passed by lawmakers.
Rouhani told a news conference that the deal was a political understanding reached with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, not a pact requiring parliamentary approval. The deal also says Iran would implement the terms voluntarily, he said.
“If the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is sent to parliament, it will create an obligation for the government,” Rouhani said. “It will mean the president, who has not signed it so far, will have to sign it. Why should we place an unnecessary legal restriction on the Iranian people?”
A special committee of the Iranian parliament has already begun studying the deal before putting it to a vote. But the legality of such a move is in doubt because the government has not prepared a bill for parliament to vote on.
Rouhani said a parliamentary vote would benefit the U.S. and its allies, not Iran.
Rouhani said the Supreme National Security Council, the country’s highest security decision-making body, was almost finished analyzing the agreement. The council works independently from the parliament.
On Sunday, Arab media outlets reported that Russia would deliver the S-300 aerial defense system to Iran by the end of 2015.
Also on Sunday, Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, said he would support the nuclear deal with Iran, moving President Barack Obama a step closer to having sufficient backing to ensure the deal stands.
“I believe the agreement, titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action … is the best available strategy to block Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Merkley wrote in a statement published on Medium.com.
Obama is trying to muster 34 votes in the Senate to ensure lawmakers cannot kill the deal. Thirty-one senators, all Democrats and independents who vote with Democrats, have now said they will support it.
Congress must vote on the deal by Sept. 17.