President Donald Trump, who has pulled the US out of a multinational nuclear deal with Iran and has repeatedly attacked the government in Tehran, has now said he is willing to meet the Iranian leadership without any preconditions.
Trump made the comments on Monday during a joint White House news conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
“I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet. I don’t know that they’re ready yet. I ended the Iran deal. It was a ridiculous deal. I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet and I’m ready to meet any time that they want to,” he said in Washington, DC, after being asked whether he would be willing to meet his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.
Trump said he had “no preconditions” for a meeting with the Iranians, adding: “If they want to meet, I’ll meet.”
His remarks come amid heightened rhetoric in the wake of the US’ withdrawal from the landmark nuclear deal with world powers in May and its reimposition of sanctions against Iran.
Washington has since threatened countries that they face financial consequences unless they halted all imports of Iranian oil from November 4.
Earlier this month, Rouhani hinted that Iran may block regional oil exports if its own sales are halted following the US’ withdrawal from the deal, which was signed in 2015 by the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union.
“Do not play with the lion’s tail or else you will regret it,” Rouhani said in a speech in Tehran, reiterating that the US cannot prevent it from exporting its crude oil to the international market.
“Peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars,” he added.
In response, Trump said sent out a late-night tweet directed at Rouhani, and written in capital letters: “Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
Trump’s post on Twitter resembled ones he issued last year to warn North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme. But in June, Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in the first US-North Korean summit, where both sides declared a new friendship and made vague pledges of nuclear disarmament.
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from the White House, said Trump’s comments at the news conference were came as a “surprise”.
“Some people would say this is classic Donald Trump – he has been under pressure over the last couple of days … and suddenly he is giving the American media this bone to pursue, which is a possible meeting with Rouhani,” said Fisher, citing Trump’s verbal criticism of Kim before meeting him.
“There are voices in this White House, senior voices, who have been highly critical of the Iranian government, who have called for its removal … but if they are told by Donald Trump I want this to happen, then there is a real possibility that this could happen.”
Some of these voices include US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo National Security Adviser John Bolton, who have used combative rhetoric against Iran.
Trump has previously suggested that Iranian leaders are going to request a new deal, but Iran has rejected talks on several occasions.
Iran said it was interested in keeping the nuclear deal alive, but only if the remaining powers can guarantee that it will not face economic isolation under Washington’s sanctions.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies