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Iran's top ayatollah: We're trumping the West, but beware infighting at home

In a State of the Union-like speech before March elections, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to press on with Iran nuclear program, but warned of internal divisions between conservatives.

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Khamenei pointed to the Occupy Wall Street movement, "heavy-handed [US] police" treatment, and protests in Europe, as signs of Western decay. He said some experts had compared the West today to the crumbling Soviet Union of the late 1980s, which was "swept away" because it had "no logic."

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Khamenei specifically addressed the American policy that "all options are on the table" – including military strikes – regarding Iran's nuclear program.

"Now why is this to the detriment of the US, the threats that they make?" asked Khamenei. "Because making threats shows the weakness of the US in embarking on dialogue.... When it comes to the battle of thoughts and wisdom, they [Americans] cannot conquer ... which means that America has no logic but force [and] bloodshed, that's the only way they find to push their agenda, and this discredits the US further."

Khamenei added: "They should know ... in return for threats of oil embargo and threats of war, we have our own threats, and when the times comes, we will make those threats."

The cleric's words were greeted with chants of "We are ready," and at other times with "death to America" and "death to Israel."

Khamenei urged caution in dealing with the "enemy," though it was not explicit that his words were to be applied to any upcoming nuclear negotiations with US and other world powers.

"We should not fall for the smile on the face of the enemy," Khamenei said. "We have had our experience the last 30 years.... We should not be cheated by their false promises and words, they break their promises very easily ... they feel no shame ... they simply utter lies."

Sanctions push Iran to be self-sufficient – and that's good

Iran's supreme religious leader showed no sign that new sanctions imposed by the US and European Union on Iran's central bank and its economic lifeline of oil exports would turn Iran from its nuclear ambitions, as Western officials say they are designed to do.

UN Security Council resolutions require Iran to stop enriching uranium until it resolves remaining questions with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about alleged weapons-related work in the past. Iran says its program aims only to produce nuclear energy.

Sanctions have begun to bite hard. Yet though the economy has shown marked decline in recent months – and the Iranian currency lost half its value since October before beginning to right itself last week – Khamenei said sanctions were beneficial to Iran, by forcing it to be self-sufficient and to set an example to Arab revolutionaries not to fear the West.

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