Supreme Leader’s Instagram post about a 7th century Imam’s peace with his enemy has caught media attention in Tehran as a possible sign of a nuclear compromise.
The post which was published on Ali Khamenei’s Persian Instagram Monday was an excerpt from a speech in April 1990 in which he discussed the reasons for the decision of the second Shiite Imam, Hassan ibn Ali, for making peace with his enemy, the founder and first caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate, Muawiya after ten years of war.
“Imam Hassan’s act was based on a logical argument which could not be disobeyed,” he had said in his speech and stressed that no one, even the first Imam, Ali ibn Abi Talib, who had not compromised with Muawiya’s father Abu Sufyan, would have chosen to take a different path under the circumstances of the time.
He also argued that Imam Hassan had taken the decision together with his brother, Hussein ibn Ali, the third Imam, who was later killed in a war with Muawiya’s forces in Karbala in 680 AD. Unlike Imam Hassan, the third Imam, is well known in Shiite history for being uncompromising toward the enemy, the Umayyads.
Khamenei also used the phrase “heroic flexibility” in the context of Iran's relations with the outside world in a very high-profile speech in September 2013 to Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) commanders.
Khamenei greeting IRGC commanders in January 2020 after the death of Qasem Soleimani
In his speech he stressed that he was not opposed to “proper political moves in diplomacy”. The phrase came from Iraqi Shia scholar Razi Ale Yasin’s book, Sulh-ul Hassan, which Khamenei translated into Persian under the title “Imam Hasan’s Peace: The most Magnificent Heroic Flexibility in History” in 1969.
Iranian Shiite clerics and officials often use references to the early Islamic history, particularly the life and actions of the prophet and the twelve Imams, as well as the Quran and other religious texts, when they discuss current affairs which requires interpretation of their statements.
“I believe in what was dubbed as ‘heroic flexibility’ many years ago [in the book],” Khamenei told the IRGC, adding that flexibility in certain circumstances could be positive and even required. He also argued that showing flexibility for “technical reasons,” while not forgetting “who the opponent and enemy is” can help a wrestler manoeuvre in his match to win, in the same way that the Imam's decision saved him and his followrs.
The media in Tehran have highlighted the Instagram post without any comments or interpretation on Tuesday, seeing its possible significance in the current political and international climate. But unlike 2013, when they immediately picked up the mention of “heroic flexibility” in the Leader’s speech and interpreted it as a sign of his consent to a nuclear deal, this time they have refrained from commenting.
Khamenei withheld his blessing to make a deal to restore the 2015 agreement between Iran and the world powers from the administration of President Hasan Rouhani, apparently fearing that credit for removal of US sanctions could help Rouhani and his allies to win in the June 2021 presidential elections against their hardliner rivals.
Rouhani has repeatedly claimed his government could have restored the deal if its path had not been blocked by powerful centres of power such as the hardline dominated parliament which passed legislation in December 2020 requiring the expansion of Iran’s nuclear program.