â€œItâ€™s good for the country, good for them, good for us and good for the world. No preconditions. If they want to meet, Iâ€™ll meet,â€ US PresidentÂ Donald TrumpÂ said at a press briefing July 30. Only hours later, Secretary of StateÂ Mike PompeoÂ appeared on CNBC, where he set conditions for such talks, saying, â€œWe’veÂ said this before. â€¦ If the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes â€¦ then the president said heâ€™s prepared to sit down and have the conversation with them.â€
In Iran, Trumpâ€™s offer was mostly received with either caution or doubt. Among the first to react wasÂ Hamid Aboutalebi, a top adviser to President Hassan Rouhani. â€œRespect for the Iranian nation, reducing hostilities and a US return to the nuclear deal could pave the existing bumpy road. â€¦ The nuclear deal was a fruit of commitment to dialogue [and this] has to be accepted,â€Â he posted on Twitter.
Late July 31, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary GuardÂ Corps (IRGC), Mohammad Ali Jafari, made clearÂ his dismissalÂ of the move in a public statement. â€œMr. Trump! Iran is not North Korea to accept your offer for a meeting,â€ Jafari said. “You will take to the grave your wish that officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran will ask for a meeting with you or [for our officials] to obtain permission to meet with you from their nation. You will never see this day.” He added, â€œEven US presidents after you will not see that day.â€
Taking to Twitter, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad ZarifÂ showed defiance, without closing the door on the prospect of talks. “Iran & US had 2 yrs of talks â€¦ we produced a unique multilateral accord â€” the JCPOAÂ [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]. Itâ€™s been working. US can only blame itself for pulling out & leaving the table.” He added, “Threats, sanctions & PR stunts wonâ€™t work. Try respect: for Iranians & for int’l commitments.”
On the newsstands, the Reformist daily SharghÂ covered the storyÂ with nearly no analysis, as if the paperÂ was waiting to see what would happen after sunrise.
To deputy parliamentary speakerÂ Ali Motahari, the timing of the offer was not appropriate â€œbecause under the current circumstances, it brings humiliation upon Iran,â€ he told reporters after a parliamentary session July 31.
â€œGiven our bitter experience from talks with the United States and the repeated failures of US politicians to abide by their obligations, it is natural for us to see no value in Trumpâ€™s offer,â€ saidÂ Kamal Kharrazi,Â the chairman of Iranâ€™s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations.
Trumpâ€™s new offer was analyzed byÂ FarsÂ News Agency,Â a semi-official news organizationÂ affiliated with the IRGC.Â A top story on the news agencyâ€™s website took a harsh stance, pointing out what it called contradictions in Trumpâ€™s positions andÂ questioning his diplomacy because he left the JCPOAÂ and because he is urging the entire world to pressure Iran. â€œTrumpâ€™s talk of unconditional negotiations with Iran comes after the US secretary of state earlier listed 12 demands, which could be seen as preconditions for the removal of US sanctions against Iran. â€¦ Thus what Trump is saying is basically a lie,â€Â the article stated, adding that â€œwith his pullout from the JCPOA, Trump proved that he is absolutely untrustworthy.â€
Describing Trump as a â€œgambling businessmanâ€ who seeks to buy credit for his â€œbankrupt diplomacyâ€ by pushing to engage Iran, Fars said, â€œIf Trump believed in dialogue, he would have not left the deal which was produced after two years of negotiations. This is simple enough for everyone to understand.â€
The conservativeÂ Young Journalists ClubÂ called Trumpâ€™s unconditional proposal as one that â€œdid not last more than two hours,â€ referring to Mike Pompeoâ€™s CNBC interview and his preconditions for engagement with Iran.
Talk aboutÂ a US-Iran dialogue has resurfaced in recent weeks in Iranian media. Speculations grew, especially after a trip made to Oman last month by Zarif, which seemed to hintÂ at the idea that Muscat was to play a mediation roleÂ between Tehran and Washington.
In its July 31 issue, the ReformistÂ Aftab YazdÂ published an interviewÂ with Seyyed Hossein Mousavian,Â a former nuclear negotiator, detailing the Trump administrationâ€™s earlier offers of talks with Iran and stating that French President Emmanuel Macron was to hostÂ such meetings.
Trumpâ€™s offer comes as voices for change in policy are also getting louder these days in Iran. Only a few hours before Trumpâ€™s remarks on July 30, a top pro-Rouhani official highlighted the economic pressure imposed on Iran. Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani, the chairman of the Tehran City Council and the son of the late heavyweightÂ politician Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, raised the idea of the need for saving Iran.
â€œThe pressure coming from sanctions as of next fall will further complicate the conditions for us. Saving Iran will depend on our hard decision, the likes of which our officials made 30 years ago and brought the Islamic Republic sustainable and useful peace with little costs,â€Â he tweeted. The decision made 30 years ago refers toÂ Resolution 598 of the United Nations Security Council, which Iran accepted to end the 1980-88 war with Iraq.
The Reformist daily Arman quotedÂ MohsenÂ HashemiÂ RafsanjaniÂ as further saying, â€œWe are facing a major threat from a triangle made up of the US, Israel and some Arab states. [Therefore], on the one hand we need to maintain our authority and unanimity absent the strangers, and on the other, we should move ahead based on realities, not ideals, slogans and emotions.â€
In the same article on Trumpâ€™s offer, FarsÂ lashed out at MohsenÂ HashemiÂ Rafsanjani without naming him. â€œThe Trump diplomacy comes at a time when some also in Iran have turned into supporters of dialogue [with the United States] and have even used the example of Resolution 598, urging Iran to make the hard decision.â€
Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, a Rouhani ally who is a former parliamentary speaker and a member of Iranâ€™s Expediency Council, said, â€œTehran should not immediately reject Trumpâ€™s proposal or get overexcited.â€ He even proposed that the offer be discussed at the countryâ€™s Supreme National Security Council.
Another political figure who took a moderate stance and almost embraced Trumpâ€™s offer wasÂ Mostafa Tajzadeh, a Reformist activist and a former deputy interior minister under Reformist President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005).
â€œIf I was in Rouhaniâ€™s shoes, Iâ€™d have announced that despite mistrust in Trump â€¦ I am still ready to haveÂ talks with him for the sake of achieving sustainable peace on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly over a host of issues, especially the need for a change in the USâ€™Â destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and its past interference in Iran.â€
In the days to come, such comments are expected to receive a barrage of strongly worded responses from rival hard-liners at home, the ones who have for decades viewed talks with the “Great Satan” asÂ a red line that must forever remain uncrossed. (Credit article: Al Monitor)