President Trump said on Monday that he is willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with "no preconditions," exactly one week after he blasted out a fiery all-caps threat to the regime over Twitter.
“I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet. I don’t know if they’re ready yet,” Trump said, responding to a reporter's question during a White House press conference alongside Italy's new Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte.
.@POTUS on Iran: "I'm ready to meet anytime that they want to and I don't do that from strength or from weakness. I think it's an appropriate thing to do... No preconditions. If they want to meet, I'll meet." pic.twitter.com/KhRc38jrt3— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) July 30, 2018
Watch for the MSM to follow the North Korea playbook on this one - blasting Trump for failing to follow "protocol" as he carves a new path through international relations.
Following a warning from Rouhani earlier in the month that hostile US policies could trigger the "mother of all wars," after which Trump blasted back via Twitter:
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 decision to meet with Rouhani would be the first major step towards mending relations after he pulled out of the Obama-era Iran nuclear agreement in which Tehran committed to curtailing its nuclear program in exchange for reduced sanctions.
Just yesterday we noted that Iran's currency is in freefall - pegging 102,000 Rials to the US Dollar on the black market, according to currency website Bonbast, and confirmed to AFP by a currency trader.
Trump suggested a meeting with Rouhani would be the "appropriate thing to do," and that it would come neither from a position of strength nor weakness, reports Fox News.
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After last week's war of words with Iran's leadership, which included multiple Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders chiming in with threats of their own after Trump's prior Sunday tweet, it was the prospect of war with Iran that drove international headlines, with Russia and North Korea taking a backseat in coverage.
On Thursday the head of the IRGC's elite Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, fired back at Trump in a speech, saying “You threaten us with an action that is ‘unprecedented’ in the world. This is cabaret-style rhetoric. Only a cabaret owner talks to the world this way.”
“It is beneath the dignity of our president to respond to you. I, as a soldier, respond to you,” Gen. Suleimani said in the fiery speech carried by state media.
Tehran has also recently threatened to impose a blockade on the vital Straight of Hormuz, potentially choking up to one-third of the world's supply of oil which flows through the narrowest point in the Persian Gulf. This as Washington has repeatedly threatened to throttle Iran's international oil trade as it's moved closer to imposing sanctions on countries, including key allies, that don’t eliminate or significantly cut imports of Iranian oil by Nov. 4.
Last week's noticeably heightened tensions go back in part to July 4 statements issued by Iranian President Rouhani. He said, "The Americans have claimed they want to completely stop Iran's oil exports. They don't understand the meaning of this statement, because it has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported, while the region's oil is exported," the state-run website, president.ir, quoted Rouhani as saying.
“The Americans say they want to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero... It shows they have not thought about its consequences,” Rouhani said.
This was followed by a published letter from Gen. Soleimani who signifiantly narrowed the threat, writing "Your comments, carried by the media, that if the Islamic Republic’s oil isn’t exported there would be no guarantees for the whole region’s oil to be exported, is a very valuable comment." This was taken by military analysts and Pentagon leaders as a threat to shut down the about 31 miles wide Straight of Hormuz, to which the Pentagon responded it would use military force if it perceived the Persian Gulf waterway under threat by Iran.
Very likely all of this was discussed and more as national security adviser John Bolton held a national security meeting Thursday involving Pentagon and other top officials. As the WSJ reported at the time it was to consider further sanctions on Iran as well a possible "new agreement" with Tehran after the White House formally withdrew the US from the 2015 JCPOA, as well as to consider what the US could gain in terms of new concessions in a now high pressure environment of stringent sanctions and threat of military force.
It appears this process could now be playing out with today's shock "no preconditions" offer from Trump to meet with Iran's President Rouhani.
Namely, are we witnessing Trump's classic "art of the deal" style approach wherein he puts immense pressures on Tehran, but at the last moment as things get to breaking point offers the proverbial "carrot"? ...And toward the end that he can make a "bigger better deal"?