Trump’s Conflicting Messages on Iran Confuse European Allies

US skirts the line between war and diplomacy

It takes a lot of careful study to even approach understanding the Trump Administration’s position on Iran, and even then that position could change wildly at any moment, with any speech. For the European allies President Trump expects to be on the same page as him, this is an exercise in futility.

As Europe tries to figure everything out, President Trump is making it harder, seemingly walking a tightrope on the issue of Iran, at one moment suggesting there “is always a chance” of war with Iran, and then calling for negotiations, even as British officials point out that Trump seems to have “no visible plan” to convince Iran into talks, nor is he in any way setting up a diplomatic process that would allow these talks to begin.

Instead, as on Thursday, he publicly claimed Iran wants to talk, saying “if they want to talk, that’s fine. We’ll talk.” French President Macron called these words “very important.” Yet analysts see this as a hollow offer, saying Trump’s offers to negotiate are little more than a show.

Yet if it’s a show for Iran’s sake, it isn’t working. Iranian officials continue to dismiss the idea of further talks, and see little merit in any engagement with the US after President Trump dishonored the P5+1 nuclear deal. They see everything he’s doing as “psychological warfare,” and it is perhaps not unfair to see it that way.

Macron’s own attempt to court Iran for diplomacy, presumably on the basis of his joint comments with Trump, were hastily rebuffed. Iranian officials argued that expanding talks beyond the scope of the nuclear deal would only raise distrust, particularly since the nuclear deal itself isn’t saved from the US pullout.

And if the show of diplomacy is for the sake of European countries, it’s been no more successful, as those allies can’t make heads or tails of what the administration’s actual intentions are. Though this has allowed President Trump to avoid committing himself to either war or diplomacy, it has also destabilized the situation greatly and risks any number of unanticipated problems.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of