If US President Donald Trump thinks that by merely saying he doesn’t want regime change in Iran, he can then inveigle the Iranians into talks, he is woefully mistaken.
This week during a state visit to Japan, fresh from watching a bout of Sumo wrestling, the American president said he thinks Iran “is ready” for negotiations. He asserted that Washington isn’t after regime change in the Islamic Republic, and that its only concern is to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons.
Trump also restated he wanted to frame future talks with Iran on additional issues of ballistic missile development and Tehran’s “regional activities” – the latter referring to long-held accusations by Washington of Iran “sponsoring terrorism”.
“I really believe that Iran would like to make a deal, and I think that’s very smart of them, and I think that’s a possibility to happen,” Trump condescended.
This US president is delusional beyond belief. After trashing an international nuclear accord with Iran last year, re-imposing crippling sanctions, and his administration in recent weeks openly threatening military attack, Trump evidently doesn’t have the faintest grasp on reality.
In response to his latest “toned down” rhetoric, Iran’s foreign ministry said Tehran wants to see a fundamental change in US behavior before it could possibly take Trump seriously. In practice, that means Washington returning to the 2015 nuclear accord as an original signatory, lifting punishing economic sanctions (economic terrorism) and withdrawing the recent buildup of military forces from the Persian Gulf.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has said that negotiations with the Trump administration would be akin to drinking poison.
The Trump administration no doubt realizes it has over-reached with its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Iran is not going to be intimidated and is more than capable of defending itself. The White House needs to find a way to muffle the war drums it has been beating in recent weeks, especially given the international censure it has been met with, even from its European allies. In short, the Americans are bluffing.
In a bid to save face, Trump is now posing as a magnanimous player, “offering” the Iranians a chance for negotiations. But Iran is hardly likely to succumb to the apparent overture. Since last year, there are reliable reports that the US president has been seeking talks with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on at least eight occasions. Tehran has not budged to oblige Trump.
Tersely put, that is because Trump and his administration have about as much credibility as a snake-oil salesman.
Trump may this week vow that he is not seeking regime change in Tehran. But earlier this year on the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, he disparaged the nation’s leadership for engaging in “40 years of terrorism”.
Trump’s senior White House aides, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, have also indulged in mouth-foaming threats against Iran.
Abundantly evident to Iran, this US administration cannot be trusted in the slightest. The Iranians must also be taking notes on how Trump’s razzmatazz diplomatic engagement with North Korea has floundered after the American side insisted on Pyongyang decommissioning its nuclear weapons before receiving sanctions relief. Where’s the American reciprocity? There is none. It’s all about dominance by a hegemonic power.
Another non-starter for Iran entering into talks with the Trump administration is that the latter’s position is incorrigibly flawed with false premises. How can dialogue be productive when one side is so delusional in its views?
Trump says he wants to ensure “no nuclear weapons” for Iran, as well as engaging in talks about restricting Iran’s ballistic missile defenses, and its alleged malign activities in the region.
As Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif recently reiterated Iran does not have nuclear weapons nor has any intention of acquiring them. Iran’s non-nuclear doctrine was clearly spelled out several years ago by Ayatollah Khamenei in a fatwa (edict). Iran may resume uranium enrichment at higher levels if the nuclear accord is not upheld by other international signatories, but that is a far cry from embarking on nuclear weapons development.
Trump is thus presuming negotiations with Iran based on false speculation about Iran having or trying to have nuclear weapons. He keeps promulgating that dead-end falsehood with the help of lousy “journalism” in the Western corporate media. His cancelling of the nuclear accord last year was based on a spurious claim that the accord was not safeguard enough against Iran building nuclear weapons. However, countless UN inspections since the 2015 deal have verified that Iran is in full compliance.
The two other premises underlying Trump’s attempt at engaging Iran in talks are also egregiously flawed. Iran’s sovereign right to develop defensive missile capabilities is perfectly within international legal obligations. It is simply outrageous for an American administration to demand Iran curb its defensive systems, especially given the military threats from that administration and its slavish support for Israel which actually has nuclear weapons pointed at Iran.
As for allegations of Iranian “sponsorship of terrorism”, that’s another canard based on American-Israeli-Saudi propaganda. Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza is a legitimate international demonstration of solidarity against Israeli aggression. Iran’s support for Shia militia in Iraq and Syria has proven to be a successful mission to thwart the destabilizing of those states by US and Saudi-backed terror proxies.
Any genuine dialogue should be premised on mutual respect. Patently, despite occasional superficial words, the Trump administration is seething with Iranophobia. The same might be gleaned regarding US policy towards Russia, China, Venezuela, North Korea and others. There is no mutual respect from Washington. Just a might-is-right attitude underpinned by a superiority complex commonly invoked as “American exceptionalism”.
All told, Iran is not going to indulge the Trump administration with talks that this administration is – between the lines – eagerly seeking. Trump’s “art of the deal” is all about backsliding on already established international commitments. From Iran’s point of view, there is nothing to be gained from dialogue with a duplicitous, delusional president whose view of the world has zero credibility.
Iran is right. The only prospect for future talks is for Washington to undergo fundamental correctional behavior. Don’t hold your breath for that to happen.