By The New York Times0 : 44
President Trump signaled his willingness to talk a week after threatening Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, on Twitter.
DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES
July 30, 2018
WASHINGTON — President Trump, who walked away from a nuclear deal with Iran despite that country’s documented compliance, said Monday that he would meet with President Hassan Rouhani with “no preconditions” as soon as the Iranian leader agreed to do so.
But hours before Mr. Trump spoke, Iran said that talks with the United States would be impossible under what it called the Trump administration’s hostile policies, seeming to close the door on any chance of a dialogue.
Mr. Trump said at a White House news conference with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy that he was open to meeting with Iran.
“I’ll meet with anybody,” Mr. Trump said. “If they want to meet, I’ll meet. Anytime they want.”
Mr. Trump compared the possibility of a face-to-face summit meeting with the Iranian leader to meetings he has held with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
“You meet,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s nothing wrong with meeting.”
But a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Rouhani anytime soon is exceedingly unlikely, especially given the anger among Iranian leaders over Mr. Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from the nuclear deal that Iran negotiated over the course of several years with the Obama administration and five other nations. Bahram Qassemi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, made that clear on Monday during a news conference in Tehran.
“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,” Mr. Qassemi said at the news conference, which was carried by Iran’s state news media.
Given the American repudiation of the nuclear agreement and the restored sanctions, Mr. Qassemi said, “I think there are no conditions for such a discussion at all.”
Mr. Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear agreement with Iran and reimpose economic sanctions has been pummeling the value of Iran’s currency and raising the sense of economic crisis in the nation of 80 million. The currency, the rial, has lost half of its value in the past few months.
The Iranians remain a part of the nuclear deal with the other nations — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — giving them little reason to think that a meeting with Mr. Trump would be to its advantage. Last week on Twitter, Mr. Trump said threats from Iran would be met by “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”
Mr. Trump followed up his tweet to Mr. Rouhani with an offer to engage Iran’s leaders in negotiations for new nuclear agreement that he described as a “real deal.”
The nuclear agreement, reached in 2015 by Iran, the United States and other major powers, eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities and Iran’s verifiable promises to never attain atomic weapons.
Mr. Trump has called the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a disaster that would not stop Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state. Iran has repeatedly denied that it will seek nuclear weapons.
The other parties to the agreement, including American allies in Europe, have said they want it to succeed. But few see such an outcome without the United States’ participation.
Even if the Iranian leadership was receptive to a meeting with Mr. Trump, the president’s national security team appears to be roundly opposed to the idea. In fact, advisers to the president have recently sounded more interested in hastening the end of the Iranian government.
Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech in which he sided with the Iranian people against what he called the “hypocritical holy men” leading their country.
It was also unclear what Mr. Trump believes he could accomplish by meeting with Mr. Rouhani. He has railed against the government’s support of terrorism and has vowed — as have previous American presidents — to not allow Iran to ever fully develop a nuclear weapon.
At Monday’s news conference, Mr. Trump said that “the brutal regime in Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon — never.”
But in saying that he would meet with his counterpart in Iran “anytime,” the president vaguely added that he would do so only if “we could work something out that’s meaningful, not the waste of paper that the other deal was.”
He did not elaborate on what that might be.
After Mr. Trump’s comments, Mr. Pompeo said that he supports the president’s desire to have a meeting with Mr. Rouhani and that Mr. Trump was focused on doing whatever was necessary “to solve problems.”
But unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Pompeo listed a series of preconditions that the Iranian leader would have to meet before such a meeting. Mr. Pompeo said that Mr. Rouhani would have to “demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation.”
If the Iranians could agree to those terms, Mr. Pompeo said, a meeting with Mr. Trump could be productive.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have intensified since Mr. Trump formally renounced the agreement in May. He has also warned other countries that under the restored sanctions, they must stop buying Iranian oil, the country’s most important export.
Iranian leaders have hinted that they might block international oil shipments from the Persian Gulf in retaliation.
Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, and Rick Gladstone from New York.