U.S. strategy on Iran is confused and Washington seems increasingly short of options to avoid escalation, with President Donald Trump saying that the choice between war and diplomacy “could go either way.” “The Trump administration is facing a fork in the road with respect to its own policy,” said Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The U.S. has “deployed an enormous amount of pressure on Iran” and is “well prepared to keep that in place for as long as they deem it necessary,” as long as Washington “can avoid escalation and an eruption of a military conflict,” said Maloney. Asked Monday if the U.S. was leaning toward negotiation or conflict, Trump did little to reassure those who prefer the former in resolving an international crisis that is currently one of the world’s most potentially explosive. “I’m okay either way it goes,” said the president, who has imposed punishing sanctions on Tehran while also repeatedly calling for dialogue. Iran has publicly refused to take part in any talks held under pressure. Meanwhile tensions have mounted, with drones shot down, oil tankers mysteriously attacked and ships seized by both Tehran and U.S. ally the U.K. According to Maloney, Iran is “trying to get a sense of where the red lines for the administration are.” But so far, despite tough talk — “We are ready for the absolute worst,” Trump said Monday — the president has repeatedly emphasized his desire to avoid a new U.S. military intervention, and spoke publicly
Iran is ready to hold talks with the United States if Washington lifts sanctions and returns to the 2015 nuclear deal it quit last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Sunday. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has said it is open to negotiations with Iran on a more far-reaching agreement on nuclear and security issues. But Iran has made any talks conditional on first being able to export as much oil as it did before the United States withdrew from the nuclear pact with world powers in May 2018. “We have always believed in talks … if they lift sanctions, end the imposed economic pressure and return to the deal, we are ready to hold talks with America today, right now and anywhere,” Rouhani said in his Sunday speech. In an interview with the Washington Post newspaper, Pompeo dismissed Rouhani’s idea as “the same offer that he offered to John F. Kerry and Barack Obama,” referring to the former U.S. secretary of state and president. “President Trump will obviously make the final decision. But this is a path that the previous administration had gone down and it led to the (Iran nuclear deal) which this administration, President Trump and I both believe was a disaster,” Pompeo said. Confrontations between Washington and Tehran have escalated, culminating in an aborted plan for U.S. air strikes on Iran last month after Tehran downed a U.S. drone. Trump called off the retaliatory U.S. air strike at the last minute.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani: “Our advice to Europe and the United States is to go back to logic and to the negotiating table. Go back to understanding, to respecting the law and resolutions of the U.N. Security Council. Under those conditions, all of us can abide by the nuclear deal.”
For years, Iran’s supreme leader only criticized the West over Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Now, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is publicly chastising the country’s elected president and his foreign minister as the accord unravels amid heightened tensions with the U.S. By naming President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as failing to implement his orders over the deal, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is signaling a hard-line tilt in how the Islamic Republic will react going forward. That will include how Iran handles the ongoing maximalist pressure campaign of President Donald Trump, who has piled on new sanctions and dispatched an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region over still-unspecified threats the White House perceives to be coming from Tehran. Now U.S. officials say the Pentagon will present a plan to the White House on Thursday calling for sending as many as an additional 10,000 troops to the Middle East over Iran. And while not calling for Rouhani and Zarif’s replacement, his words limit the already-waning influence of their relatively moderate administration as they have only two years left in their term. “For now, Tehran is likely focused on building up leverage against the U.S. — in the nuclear realm and regionally — before it would agree to even limited talks,” wrote Henry Rome, an analyst at the Eurasia Group. Khamenei, 80, is only the second supreme leader Iran has known since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had a dominating