After months of confrontation with Tehran, President Trump said on Monday that he is willing to meet with Iranian official without preconditions and at the time of their choosing.
Just days before, Trump and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani were exchanging threats over the media.
“NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump tweeted in all caps.
Rouhani responded by warning him not to “play with the lion’s tail” and stating that war with Iran would be “mother of all wars.”
His overture for a conciliation was rejected by the Iranian government: “With current America and these policies, there will definitely not be the possibility of dialogue and engagement, and the United States has shown that it is totally unreliable,” said Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi.
Trump wasn’t worried about the reaction from his fellow Republicans, some of which staunchly oppose any attempt at negotiation with Iran, or U.S. allies in the region like Israel and Saudi Arabia, who believe that Iran is the major source of instability in the Middle East.
“I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet,” Trump said. “If they want to meet, I’ll meet.”
Trump acknowledged that Iran’s economic troubles are caused by his cancelation of the Iran Deal, negotiated by President Obama. Iran’s currency is in free fall, and the situation will only get worse once the U.S. sanctions, suspended after the deal was signed, come back in effect on August 4th. The citizens have organized several protests criticizing the Tehran’s economic policies.
“They are having a hard time right now. But I ended the Iran deal. It was a ridiculous deal,” POTUS said. “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.”
Trump hopes that months of pressure combined with the bad economy will force Tehran to negotiate and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agrees with the plan. He did say that Iran must meet some conditions before the talks could start.
“If the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people — reduce their maligned behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter in a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation, then the president said he’s prepared to sit down and have a conversation with him,” Pompeo said, somewhat contradicting Trump on “no preconditions” clause.
Some other White House supporters also agree with the plan.
“It’s a well-timed offer made as the leaders of the Islamic Republic are facing increasingly severe economic and social crises,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Trump is saying, you want the pain to stop, meet me. If not, the pain will only get worse.”
There are critics of the plan, however. They say that Iran doesn’t trust Trump and don’t believe that he would negotiate in good faith. They also state that even if Rouhani, a moderate politician, would agree to meet with him, the scrutiny he would face at home would be overwhelming.
Even Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), one of the Trump’s biggest supporters on the Hill, seems to think that the meeting would be unwise at this point.
“You know, countries like Iran and Cuba and other two-bit rogue regimes don’t have nuclear weapons, yet. They can’t threaten the United States in that way,” Cotton said. “Once North Korea had nuclear weapons, once they have missiles that can deliver them to use, I would liken it to past presidents sitting down with Soviet dictators.”
The key U.S. allies in the Middle East, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates clash daily with Iran in Syria and elsewhere, and would be adamantly opposed to any notion of a meeting between Washington and Tehran, let alone such a high profile one that would include president of the United States.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Khalid bin Salman, issued a warning against any sort of appeasement of religious leaders of Iran.
“Those who have not learnt history’s lessons counsel us to let the Iranians subvert the entire Middle East while granting them as many financial enticements as possible,” he wrote. “A wiser and ultimately more moral approach is to pressure Iran to correct its awful behavior immediately.”
The cycle of threats and negations seems consistent with Trump’s method of conducting foreign affairs. He was also threatening North Korea, only to have a meeting with Kim Jong Un just months later.