TEHRAN, Iran — With talks over Iran's nuclear program set to resume in Geneva this week, both sides engaged in a bit of public diplomacy Sunday: Iran's supreme leader moved to quiet hard-liners in his country by expressing support for his negotiating team, while the chief U.S. negotiator reiterated in an Israeli television interview that "no deal is better than a bad deal."
The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds Iran's final word on the nuclear talks, told a group of students in Tehran that he was not optimistic the negotiations would succeed, but he also sent a negative message to the conservative clerics and military commanders who in recent weeks have attacked the diplomatic initiative.
"No one has the right to see our negotiating team as compromisers," Khamenei said, according to a recounting published on his personal website. "They are our own children and children of the revolution. They have a difficult mission, and no one has the right to weaken an official who is doing his job."
On Thursday and Friday, Iran and the group of world powers involved in the talks are scheduled to hold their second round of negotiations since Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran's president in June. Rouhani has pledged a resolution on the nuclear issue within a year in the hope of easing sanctions that have crippled his nation's economy.
During two days of talks last month, Iranian negotiators presented an unusually detailed proposal whose contents were not revealed publicly but led Western leaders to suggest progress was possible.
In an interview with Channel 10 News in Israel that was broadcast Sunday night, Wendy Sherman, who leads the U.S. delegation to the nuclear talks, sought to reassure a skeptical ally of "President Obama's commitment that Iran not obtain a nuclear weapon." She stressed that Israel, which is not a party to the talks, would be informed and "have consulted with us" about any possible deal "because Israel's security is bedrock, and there is no closer security relationship than what we have with each other."
As she did during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee early last month, Sherman, a senior State Department official, suggested a two-stage process: first, to stop the advancement of Iran's nuclear program, then to "negotiate a comprehensive agreement."
Today is the 34th anniversary of the seizing of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the capture of 52 hostages, who were held for 444 days.