Today Trump made a disingenuous offer to negotiate with Iran:
“What they should be doing is calling me up, sitting down. We can make a deal, a fair deal, we just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons – not too much to ask. And we would help put them back to great shape.”
When Trump says things like this, it confirms what we knew all along: the administration’s rhetoric about negotiating a “better” deal is empty posturing. If all that the administration wanted was for Iran not to have nuclear weapons, there would have been no escalating U.S. sanctions pressure campaign over the last year. If keeping Iran from building nuclear weapons was Trump’s only concern, he could have kept the U.S. in the nonproliferation agreement that ensured that Iran would be unable to build nuclear weapons. Instead, Trump reneged on the deal, reimposed sanctions without cause, and issued a series of absurd and unrealistic demands that no self-respecting government would accept. Once he reneged on the agreement, Trump proved that he couldn’t be trusted to keep any promises, and he gave Iran every reason not to negotiate with a government that broke its word.
Iranian leaders aren’t going to take the risk of negotiating with the U.S. again, especially not when this president is still in office, because they were burned so badly by the last experience and because they can’t believe promises of sanctions relief when earlier promises were arbitrarily revoked. Supposing that Zarif or Rouhani did call Trump up, what would they possibly have to talk about? Iran won’t accede to the administration’s preposterous demands, and Trump has shown no interest in lifting sanctions until Iran capitulates (and perhaps not even then). Iranian officials have made it clear that there won’t be negotiations on any other issues until the U.S. returns to the JCPOA, and that will never happen as long as Trump is the president. Even if Trump were sincere in his desire to negotiate now (he isn’t), he already burned those bridges a year ago when he violated the agreement.
The truth is that Trump and his officials have never wanted any kind of “deal” with Iran, and they objected to the current nuclear deal because it represented a compromise with the Iranian government that reduced international pressure on the regime. They believe the nuclear deal was “horrible” precisely because it took some Iranian interests into account, and they don’t accept that Iran has any legitimate interests. The administration is never going to seek a deal that would require an end to their pressure campaign, and they are not interested in reaching a mutually acceptable compromise on the nuclear issue or anything else. The Trump administration wants Iran to surrender on everything, and failing that they intend to strangle Iran into submission no matter how much damage that does to tens of millions of innocent Iranian civilians. The administration isn’t going to get what they want, but in the meantime they will keep escalating tensions and increasing the chances of a war that would be disastrous for all parties.