Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has weathered some critical moments over the last quarter of a century – the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 when Tehran feared it would be the next target, the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which shook the legitimacy of his rule and the acrimonious years that followed as sanctions hit the country’s economy.
Perhaps the biggest decision of his career, however, was the one he had to make this week. The historic deal struck in Vienna could not have happened without Khamenei’s blessing. He has the final say in all state matters in Iran and his decision may define his leadership.
On one side of the negotiating table of the 22-month talks sat seven parties struggling to secure a formula that would allow a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Tehran, which will have profound implications for the Middle East. On the other side, there was one man not actually present but whose view was decisive. No one doubted who that person was.
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