At a news conference Monday with the prime minister of Italy, Trump blurted out that he was willing to meet with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani any time and without preconditions.
- “No preconditions. No. They want to meet, I’ll meet. Anytime they want. Anytime they want. It’s good for the country, good for them, good for us, and good for the world. No preconditions. If they want to meet, I’ll meet.”
- “I believe in meeting. I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet. I don’t know that they’re ready yet . . . They’re having a hard time right now.”
That last remark seemed to be Trump’s way of teasing Iran about the economic difficulties he put the country in by violating the 2015 nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) and pushing for severe new sanctions on the country. The UN International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly certified that Iran lived up to the terms of the deal, in which it gave up most of its enrichment program in return for sanctions relief. Iranians feel badly treated by Trump’s unilateral destruction of an international treaty and punishment of them after they gave up so much and abided by their commitments.
- “I ended the Iran deal. It was a ridiculous deal. I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet, and I am ready to meet anytime they want to. I don’t do that from strength or from weakness. I think it’s an appropriate thing to do. If we could work something out that’s meaningful, not the waste of paper that the other deal was, I would certainly be willing to meet.”
“I’ll meet with anybody. Speaking to other people, especially when you’re talking about potentials of war and death and famine and lots of other things. You meet, there’s nothing wrong with meeting.”
Trump objected that after the JCPOA, “the Iranians think they can do whatever they want,” referring to the robust Iranian role in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon (and, Washington alleges without much proof), Yemen. The nuclear deal was narrow and treated only Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program, which its critics believed could be dual-use, i.e., could lead to the production of a nuclear weapon. Numerous US and Israeli officials and institutions have admitted, however, that at no point had Iran made a decision to militarize its enrichment program, which produces fuel for the country’s three nuclear power plants.
Trump seems to be repeating his routine with North Korea, where he started out making dire threats and scaring the public about military confrontation, and then abruptly folded and gave Kim Jong Un his long-sought star turn on the world stage as a peer of the US president without actually getting anything in return other than vague pronouncements.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry immediately rebuffed Trump’s offer to meet,pointedly giving the interview to China’s Xinhua news agency. Bahram Qassemi pointed out that Iran already spent years negotiating with the US, and reaching an agreement only to see the US walk away from it abruptly:
- “The United States has proved that it is unreliable, so engagement and dialogue with the current U.S. government is impossible . . . hostile policies of the United States, including its withdrawal from the Iranian international nuclear deal, its plans to exert sanction and economic pressures on Iran leave no chance for talks.”
Qassemi said, however, that military confrontation between Iran and the US is out of the question, though Iran does stand ready to defend itself if attacked.
The clerical regime in Iran has been for decades a weird center of erratic behavior and wild conspiracy theories. But nowadays its spokesmen sound like the adults in the room compared to Trump’s antics (Trump has no idea what exactly as in the Iran nuclear deal or whether Iran honored it– he just had to undo it because it was an achievement of Obama). So congratulations, America, you’ve out-crazied the mullahcracy, which thinks you’re too ca-razy to bother talking to.
Featured Photo: AFP/File / Nicholas Kamm, HO. An advisor to President Hassan Rouhani (R) says any talks with the US must include a return to the nuclear deal which President Donald Trump pulled out of.