Ayatollah Khamenei first permitted direct negotiations between Iran and the United States on the nuclear issue after US President Barack Obama came into office, during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Direct talks were held first in Vienna in 2009 and continued in Muscat in 2012. With the election of Rouhani in June 2013, a more professional nuclear negotiating team was appointed and a more favorable international political climate for serious negotiations was created. To accommodate a nuclear deal, Ayatollah Khamenei gave permission again for direct talks between Iran and United States, allowing for the bilateral negotiations that proved to be the critical prerequisite to the nuclear deal to eventually be reached.
Indeed, it is of crucial importance to note that the Rouhani administration would not have been able to reach and uphold the nuclear deal without the support of Ayatollah Khamenei. Hard-line domestic opponents of Rouhani would have certainly killed the deal if not for the supreme leader’s explicit support for the administration and nuclear negotiators. When the parliament was debating the nuclear deal these past several months, I was in Iran and witnessed firsthand the bellicose nature of the opposition. The rhetoric reached such a level of hostility that at one point a hard-line parliament member menaced Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, threatening to put him and Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization head Ali Akbar Salehi in the “heart” of Iran’s plutonium reactor and “bury” them “in cement.”
“Will Iran’s nuclear diplomacy lead to regional solutions?” Hossein Mousavian, Al Monitor, November 3, 2015.