CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The director of the Central Intelligence Agency has provided the first public glimpse of American intelligence assessments about why Iran’s leadership agreed to the tentative nuclear accord last week, saying that Iran’s president persuaded its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that their country’s economy was “destined to go down” unless he reached an understanding with the West.
The C.I.A. director, John O. Brennan, speaking Tuesday night at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, suggested that a key to the deal was the election of President Hassan Rouhani, who had hardly been the supreme leader’s first choice.
It took more than two years, he suggested, for the new president, a former nuclear negotiator himself, to persuade the far more isolated Ayatollah Khamenei that “six years of sanctions had really hit,” and that the economic future imperiled the country’s leadership.
During this time, the ayatollah kept referring publicly to Iran’s “resistance economy,” a phrase that resounded among hard-liners who liked to portray the country as thriving by confronting the United States and its allies.