EghtesadOnline: US President Donald Trump offered direct talks with Tehran, saying top Iranian officials should “call me” and suggested the US would help improve Iran’s economy if the country moves to ease the US ostensible concerns over its nuclear program.
The impromptu offer by the US president, if serious, represents a dramatic lowering of the bar set by his administration for lifting extensive sanctions, including an oil embargo.
Iran is already party to a 2015 agreement that limits its nuclear program and places it under close scrutiny. Trump withdrew the US from that Obama-era treaty a year ago, the Guardian reported.
“What I’d like to see with Iran, I’d like to see them call me,” Trump told reporters at White House on Thursday. He said the Iranian economy was in serious trouble as a result of the US pressure campaign, Financial Tribune reported.
“What they should be doing is calling me up, sitting down and we can make a deal, a fair deal,” Trump said.
“We just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons. It’s not too much to ask. And we would help put them back into great shape.”
Tehran says its nuclear activities have no military aspects and are totally meant for peaceful applications.
The Trump administration has previously insisted Iran would have to fulfill a list of 12 far-ranging conditions, including ending its involvement in Syria and Iraq, in order for sanctions to be lifted. Trump’s remarks suggested that a new deal on the nuclear program would be enough.
Majid Takht-Ravanchi, the new Iranian ambassador to the UN, immediately responded by saying Iran had no interest in developing nuclear weapons.
“The first question that he has to answer is why he left the negotiating table because we were talking to all participants of the nuclear deal, including the US,” he told NBC News.
“So all of a sudden he decided to leave the negotiating table … What is the guarantee that he will not renege again on the future talks between Iran and the US?”
In his remarks, Trump accused the former secretary of state, John Kerry, of telling Iran not to negotiate with his administration, which he claimed was a violation of the Logan Act, which bans private individuals from negotiating with foreign states.
The allegation was denied by a spokesman for Kerry’s office, who told CNN, “Everything President Trump said today is simply wrong, end of story. He’s wrong about the facts, wrong about the law, and sadly he’s been wrong about how to use diplomacy to keep America safe.”
Asked why the US had sent an aircraft carrier to the Middle East in response to allegedly menacing behavior by Iran, Trump contended, “They were threatening and we have information that you don’t want to know about. They were very threatening and we just want to have … great security for this country and for a lot of other places.”
Not Keen on Confrontation
And on the question of whether there could be a military confrontation, he replied, “I guess you could say that always, right? I don’t want to say no, but hopefully that won’t happen. We have one of the most powerful ships in the world that is loaded up and we don’t want to do anything.”
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has been pushing an aggressive stance toward Iran and made the announcement of the military deployments, but the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Bolton has irritated Trump over his involvement in a failed effort to oust the Venezuelan leader, Nicolas Maduro.
“John … has strong views on things, but that’s OK. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing, isn’t it?” Trump joked to reporters.
The US president made his remarks at a time of rising tensions over the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran announced its intention to roll back elements of the agreement on Wednesday, in response to the failure of the US and other state parties to meet their side of the bargain by relaxing sanctions.
Ali Vaez, the Iran Project Director at the Crisis Group, believes the risk of a confrontation is "worryingly high".
"It certainly increases the risks. The presence of US warships in the Persian Gulf is not unusual. What is unusual is the Trump administration's level of bellicosity toward Iran. There is so much friction between Iran and the US—and their respective allies in the region—and with no channel of communication between these parties," Vaez told DW.