Iran’s government was deeply split on whether the US could be trusted in the P5+1 nuclear deal. Now that the US is reneging on the pact, the Iranians are equally deeply split about what to do about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s list of demands.
Some Reformists within the government believe that the demands are tantamount to an invitation to engage in diplomacy. They note that unreasonable demands were how the US started engaging North Korea, and speculate that’s just the administration’s way of doing things.
Hardliner conservatives, however, see the US as increasingly unreasonable and unhinged since pulling out of the nuclear deal. They see no point in engaging with the US at this point, or even responding at all to Pompeo’s demands.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s position seems to be leaning toward the ultra-conservatives, seeing the US threat to the nuclear deal as a big embarrassment, and continuing to engage with the US diplomatically, even if it is an option, a risky proposition.
Analysts weren’t optimistic about Pompeo’s demands either. Many have said they believe Pompeo’s “Plan B” is specifically designed to fail. Once the demands fail, it is expected the US will further escalate the situation, potentially starting a war.