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.
The United States has decided not to impose sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for now, two sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday, in a sign Washington may be holding a door open for diplomacy. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on June 24 had said Zarif would be blacklisted that week, an unusual public stance because the United States typically does not preview such decisions to keep its targets from moving assets out of U.S. jurisdiction. Blacklisting Iran’s chief negotiator would also be unusual because it could impede any U.S. effort to use diplomacy to resolve its disagreements with Tehran over Iran’s nuclear programme, regional activities and missile testing. The sources did not give specific reasons for the decision, which came after two months in which U.S.-Iranian tensions have soared because of attacks on tankers in the Gulf that the United States blames on Iran, despite its denials, and Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone that prompted preparations for a U.S. retaliatory air strike that was called off minutes before it was due to hit. “Cooler heads prevailed. We … saw it as not necessarily helpful,” said one source familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had opposed designating Zarif “for the time being.” In a sign of how close Washington came to taking action, the U.S. Treasury internally circulated a draft press release announcing sanctions on the Iranian foreign minister. Zarif is expected to attend a
The U.S. and Iran edged toward a flashpoint as Tehran announced it was breaking compliance with the accord that keeps it from making nuclear weapons and the Trump administration followed by ordering 1,000 more troops to the Middle East. The Pentagon said the deployment includes security forces and troops for additional surveillance and intelligence gathering in the region. While the number is small, it represents an escalation of U.S. military might aimed at deterring Iran and calming allies worried that transit through key shipping lanes could be in jeopardy. Tehran’s announcement earlier Monday means it could soon start to enrich uranium to just a step away from weapons-grade levels, challenging President Donald Trump’s assurances to allies that the U.S. withdrawal from the deal last year made the world a safer place. The developments are bound to inflame tensions in the Middle East and pose a test of resolve and credibility for both adversaries. Iran said it would break a limit on uranium stockpiles established by the 2015 agreement with world powers that was intended to restrict the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of international sanctions. After Trump withdrew from the agreement, signed by his predecessor, he reinstated punishing economic sanctions, leaving the European and other partners in the accord struggling to keep Iran on board. On Monday, the U.S. administration found itself in the awkward position of demanding that Iran comply with a nuclear accord that the president derided as the worst deal in history. “We
The top European diplomats said, “We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran’s compliance on the basis of Iran’s performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA and the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons). In this respect, we recall the key role of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) monitoring and verification of the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments.”
Iran said on Sunday it could quit a treaty against the spread of nuclear weapons after the United States tightens sanctions, while an Iranian general said the U.S. Navy was interacting as before with an elite military unit blacklisted by Washington. Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since the Trump administration withdrew last year from a 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran and began ratcheting up sanctions.
Earlier this month, the United States blacklisted Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions.
“The Islamic Republic’s choices are numerous, and the country’s authorities are considering them ... and leaving NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) is one of them,” state broadcaster IRIB’s website quoted Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying.