Trump, Advisors Are Split on Talking With Iran

Rouhani: Iran cannot negotiate while under sanctions

Last week, President Trump offered talks with Iran “without preconditions.” This was a surprising move. Less surprising was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, just hours later, imposing multiple preconditions on any talks.

Presidents Trump and Rouhani

Was this by design though? Maybe not. Analysts are now speculating that President Trump and his advisors are at odds on the question of talking with Iran, with Trump actually willing to talk without preconditions, and Pompeo quickly putting the kibosh on that.

John Bolton, as opposed to diplomacy as one can get, suggested Trump is still willing to talk without preconditions, but also said he believed the whole point of offering talks was for Iran to reject them, and prove that “they’re not serious.”

Yet Iran’s position on talks isn’t so straightforward either. President Hassan Rouhani likewise suggested on Tuesday that he was open to talks “without precondition,” though this was hastily amended to say that Iran cannot negotiate while under the shadow of economic sanctions.

Bolton appeared taken aback by this suggestion, saying that he thought any offers of talks by Rouhani must be “propaganda,” since he’d just gotten done making clear that in his opinion the US offers of talks were the same thing.

But while insincere offers of talks are nothing new, it’s not entirely clear that either Trump or Rouhani is necessarily averse to the idea of negotiating directly, without preconditions. Yet both face substantial political resistance in doing so, meaning in all likelihood, no such talks are imminent.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of