Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said the Islamic republic’s opposition to the "arrogant" United States "will not change" despite a landmark nuclear agreement reached earlier this week with world powers.
The comments, broadcast live on state television on July 18, were greeted by chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" at a ceremony at Tehran's Mosala Mosque on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr festival, which marks the end of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama defended the accord amid skepticism from congressmen reviewing the deal.
Khamenei, who has the final say in all state affairs in Iran, said U.S. policy in the Middle East runs counter to Iran's strategy and that Tehran will continue to support its allies in the region, including Lebanon's Hizballah militant group and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"Whether this [nuclear deal] is approved or disapproved, we won’t stop supporting our friends in the region,” he said. “The oppressed Palestinian nation, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, the honest resistance fighters in Lebanon and Palestine will enjoy our constant support."
“Even after this deal our policy toward the arrogant U.S. will not change," Khamenei added.
Khamenei maintained that Iran's engagement with six world powers was solely to reach a nuclear deal that was in its national interest.
"We do not negotiate with the United States on various global, regional, or bilateral issues,” Khamenei said. “Sometimes -- based on expedience -- we have talked to them on exceptional matters, such as the nuclear issue, and it has not been only this one time."
"U.S. policies in the region are 180 degrees in contrast to Iran's policies," he added.
Under the deal agreed in Vienna on July 14 after years of negotiations, sanctions against Tehran, which have hampered Iran’s economy, will be gradually removed in return for the Persian Gulf state accepting long-term curbs on its nuclear program. The talks involved Iran and the five veto-wielding Security Council members -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France -- as well as Germany and the European Union.
Western countries accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons, a claim that Tehran denies.
Khamenei reiterated that position on July 18, mentioning a fatwa, or religious edict, he himself issued against any action seeking the bomb.
"The Americans say they stopped Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," he said. "They know it's not true."
Speaking of Iran's negotiators at the Vienna talks led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif,, the supreme leader said, "They really took pains and worked hard."
"The text that has been prepared, whether it is approved or not, they have done their part and they should have their reward," he added.
Iran's procedure for ratifying the accord remains unclear. The country's media reported that Zarif would brief parliament on July 21, and the deal will also be examined by the National Security Council, the country's highest security body.
Khamenei stressed that the nuclear accord will have to be carefully scrutinized to ensure national interests are preserved, insisting that Iran will not allow the disruption of its revolutionary principles or defensive abilities.
U.S. leaders sought Iran's "surrender," Khamenei said.
Iran would not welcome war, he also said, adding that if conflict erupted Americans would “exit the battle with their heads down."
The White House says military options remain available regarding Iran, but that the administration is pursuing diplomacy first.
Spokesman Josh Earnest said on July 17 that, if Iran does not comply with the agreement, “we continue to have the wide range of options in front of us that we do today. And whether that means snapping back sanctions or even deploying a military option."
In his weekly address in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama said on July 18 that, without the deal, "we'd risk another war in the most volatile region in the world."
"This deal actually pushes Iran further away from a bomb,” he said. “And there's a permanent prohibition on Iran ever having a nuclear weapon."
"We will have unprecedented, 24/7 monitoring of Iran's key nuclear facilities," the president added.
Obama's Republican rivals hope to sink the accord in a planned vote in Congress, which has 60 days to review it.
On July 19, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Khamenei's speech as "aggressive and confrontational," saying it shows that any expectations the nuclear deal would soften the militancy of the Islamic Republic were misguided.
Netanyahu, a staunch critic of the nuclear agreement with Iran, said Tehran doesn't "even try to hide the fact" that it will use a looming lifting of sanctions to further arm regional militant groups and to oppose U.S. and Israeli interests around the Middle East.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, who plans to visit several countries in the Middle East, has said that Iran hoped the deal could pave the way for more international cooperation.
"By solving the artificial crisis about its nuclear program diplomatically, a new opportunity for regional and international cooperation has emerged," he said in a July 17 message to Islamic and Arab countries.
Some Persian Gulf Arab states accuse Shi'te Iran of interference, alleging financial or armed support for political movements in countries such as Bahrain and Yemen.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP