John Kerry's Defense Tactics (file)
John Kerry's Defense Tactics (file)Reuters

US Secretary of State John Kerry has acknowledged that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's continued vows to defy the US are "very disturbing."

"I don't know how to interpret it at this point in time, except to take it at face value, that that's his policy," Kerry told Saudi-owned television station Al-Arabiya Tuesday. "But I do know that often comments are made publicly and things can evolve that are different. If it is the policy, it's very disturbing, it's very troubling."

"We are not kidding when we talk about the importance of pushing back against extremism, against support for terrorism and proxies who are destabilizing other countries," he added. "It’s unacceptable.”

On Saturday, Khamenei gave a particularly inflammatory speech just days after the deal, stating that the Islamic Republic's policies toward the US have not changed. 

"We have repeatedly said we don't negotiate with the US on regional or international affairs; not even on bilateral issues," he said. "There are some exceptions like the nuclear program that we negotiated with the Americans to serve our interests."

"We will never stop supporting our friends in the region and the people of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon," he continued, referring to the Iranian terror axis in the Middle East. "Even after this deal our policy towards the arrogant US will not change." 

Iran has continued to be defiant toward the US as well, even after Washington voted in favor of implementing the deal at the UN Security Council vote Monday night. 

After that vote, Iran's ambassador to the UN Gholam Ali Khoshrou threw a number of stinging accusations at the US, including claims that it has contributed to "Iranophobia" and that its actions have destabilized the Middle East more than Iran.

Under the terms of the deal, Iran will soon get access to over $100 billion of assets frozen abroad. Kerry said the figure should not sound alarming, particularly to Gulf states who, he says, allocate more for military spending than Tehran.

“$100 billion is nothing compared to what gets spent every year in the region. Iran's military budget is $15 billion. The Gulf states' military budget is $130 billion," he said. “… I think President Obama's belief and our military assessments, our intelligence assessments, are that if they organize themselves correctly, all of the Arab states have an untapped potential that is very, very significant to be able to push back against any of these activities."

Matt Wanderman contributed to this report.