White House: Khamenei still 'decision-maker' after presidential election in Iran

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Iran's top cleric remains the country's "decision-maker," the White House said, tamping down speculation over whether the country's newly elected president could influence talks about the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

"The president's view and our view is that the decision-maker here is the supreme leader," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "That was the case before the election, is the case today, will be the case probably moving forward."

The two countries currently have no formal diplomatic ties, communicating, when necessary, through proxy governments.

A close ally of Khamenei, President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, surpassed a 50% threshold in the first round of voting last week. He will take office in August and is expected to govern in line with Khamenei's hard-line, conservative policies.

IRANIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT SAYS HE WILL NOT MEET WITH BIDEN OR NEGOTIATE NUCLEAR PROGRAM

Raisi, formerly the head of Iran’s judiciary, said on Monday he would not meet with President Joe Biden and called the proliferation of his country's nuclear program "not negotiable." Raisi, who is under U.S. sanctions, also urged the United States to ease sanctions on the Iranian regime.

The Biden administration is seeking a return to an Obama-era nuclear agreement, with the two sides working to revive the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, alongside world powers in Vienna.

Negotiators recently completed a sixth round of talks.

Asked how the new leader's arrival could influence a return to a deal, Psaki reiterated Khamenei's impact on Iranian policy and any return to the agreement, suggesting Raisi's victory was unlikely to affect negotiations.

"There is a decision-maker here, and that has not changed, and it is the supreme leader," Psaki said. "So we are going to continue to work to move these diplomatic negotiations forward because it's in the interest of the United States and the interest of our national security."

Psaki added: "I don't have a new timeline to set for you. [Khamenei]'s been the decision-maker before the election, after the election, and even after an inauguration."

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Speaking on ABC News’s This Week, Jake Sullivan, Biden's top national security aide, said on Sunday that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a “paramount priority” of the administration but that the decision to reenter the deal lies not with Raisi, but with Khamenei, who agreed to resume talks earlier this year.

“[Khamenei] was the same person before this election as he is after the election, so, ultimately, it lies with him,” Sullivan said.

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Tags: News, White House, Biden Administration, Joe Biden, Iran, Nuclear Deal

Original Author: Katherine Doyle

Original Location: White House: Khamenei still 'decision-maker' after presidential election in Iran

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