After series of Twitter outbursts, Trump hints at ‘real deal’ with Iran

Ford’s remarks drew almost no attention although they contrast sharply with the Trump administration’s months of hectoring Iran.
Sunday 29/07/2018
US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ashley Ford at a meeting in Geneva, last April. (Reuters)
Change of tone. US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ashley Ford at a meeting in Geneva, last April. (Reuters)

WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump and his administration have backed off their strong threats against Iran and signalled a willingness for a new “deal” to address Iran’s nuclear programme and other US concerns.

Trump said July 24 that “we’re ready to make a real deal” with Iran, adding that “Iran is not the same country anymore” since he announced in May that the United States was withdrawing from the nuclear deal that the United States, five other world powers and the European Union signed with Iran in 2015.

Trump’s remarks were just a day-and-a-half after he wrote in an all-capitalised late-night tweet aimed at Iranian President Hassan Rohani: “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

Trump’s tweet was an apparent response to Rohani’s warning that fighting Iran would be “the mother of all wars” and that Trump should not “play with the lion’s tail, because you will regret it eternally.”

Trump said nothing more about Iran in his July 24 speech to a major US veterans group and an administration spokeswoman declined to clarify his remarks. Trump is well-known for making apparently contradictory statements.

However, on July 25, a US State Department official gave a little-noticed speech that suggested the administration wants to replace the Iran deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“We left the JCPOA in order to start over,” said Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ashley Ford. The United States intends to use the reinstatement of sanctions “as a catalyst for bringing international partners — and eventually Iran itself — back to the table to negotiate a permanent solution to these problems,” Ford said.

He was referring to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programmes and its support for terrorism and threats to its neighbouring countries.

“If Iran agrees to a new and better deal that comprehensively addresses our concerns, we would support Iran’s full reintegration, politically and economically, into the community of nations. This would include the establishment of diplomatic relations, lifting all our sanctions against Iran — not just some of them, as the JCPOA did — and supporting Iran’s reintegration into the global economy and community of nations,” Ford said in his speech on moving American policy forward after the nuclear deal.

Acknowledging negotiations would be a “huge project,” Ford said the United States was “fully invested and ready to put in the sustained and serious effort required to get an outcome that provides lasting security for the region and the world and we’re also prepared to lean hard on our partners and the international community to get it done.”

Ford’s remarks drew almost no attention although they contrast sharply with the Trump administration’s months of hectoring Iran and its vocal support of Iranian protesters and other opponents of Tehran’s leadership. On July 22, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stopped just short of urging regime change when he assailed Iranian leaders as corrupt.

“I have a message for the people of Iran: The United States hears you. The United States supports you. The United States is with you,” Pompeo told a cheering audience of Iranian Americans in California.

Pompeo said a US government agency that runs overseas radio networks such as Voice of America is establishing a 24-hour, Farsi-language outlet that will broadcast on television, radio and social media “so that the ordinary Iranians inside of Iran and around the globe can know that America stands with them.”

Pompeo sounded differently when he testified before Congress on July 26, saying Trump quit the nuclear deal because the United States “would find [itself] in a better place with an opportunity to revisit all of these issues” such as Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes and its “malign activity around the world.”

Although German, French and British leaders criticised Trump’s withdrawal from JCPOA, Pompeo said the United States had support from other countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as it tries a new negotiating strategy.

“There are a number of folks who are beginning to coalesce around an understanding of how we can appropriately respond to Iran to take down the nuclear risk to the United States as well as the risk from these other malign activities,” Pompeo said.

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