Trump opens door to eas­ing of Iran sanctions

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON: U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump left open Wed­nes­day the pos­si­bil­ity that the United States could ease sanctions on Iran, adding he be­lieves Iran wants to strike a deal with Wash­ing­ton on its nu­clear pro­gram.

“We’ll see what hap­pens,” Trump told re­porters at the White House when asked about the pos­si­bil­ity the United States would ease up on its “maximum pressure” cam­paign.

Trump’s fir­ing of his hard-line na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, John Bolton, Tues­day prompted spec­u­la­tion that Wash­ing­ton’s pol­icy to­ward ad­ver­saries such as Iran could ease.

Sep­a­rately, Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani said Tehran would not ne­go­ti­ate with Wash­ing­ton while sanctions on his coun­try are still be­ing en­forced by Wash­ing­ton.

Trump said Wed­nes­day it would be “very very danger­ous” for Iran to enrich ura­nium, a key step in de­vel­op­ing a nu­clear weapon, and also said, “I do be­lieve they’d like to make a deal.”

“If they do, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s great too,” he said. “They have tremen­dous fi­nan­cial dif­fi­culty and the sanctions are get­ting tougher and tougher.”

Trump and U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo have said the pres­i­dent is open to meet­ing with Rouhani, pos­si­bly at the United Nations Gen­eral As­sem­bly meet­ing later this month. Asked if he was look­ing at such a meet­ing, Trump told re­porters he was not look­ing at any­thing.

Mean­while, Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu played down the im­pact of Bolton’s exit, pre­dict­ing that Wash­ing­ton would hold to a tough line on Iran.

Ne­tanyahu was among the most vo­cal cham­pi­ons of Trump’s with­drawal from the 2015 nu­clear deal be­tween Iran and ma­jor pow­ers and has voiced mis­giv­ings about West­ern en­gage­ment with Tehran un­less this leads to sweep­ing re­stric­tions on sen­si­tive nu­clear projects.

But Ne­tanyahu, in an Is­raeli tele­vi­sion in­ter­view, sounded un­fazed by Bolton’s de­par­ture and pos­si­ble Trump-Rouhani talks.

“Look, the one who for­mally crafted the Amer­i­can pol­icy was Pom­peo ... and Pres­i­dent Trump of course. But I’m not get­ting into the per­son­al­ity changes in this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he told Chan­nel 20.

Ne­tanyahu, wav­ing off com­men­ta­tors who deemed Bolton’s de­par­ture a blow to him and to Is­rael, cited new U.S. sanctions against Iran’s Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps that were an­nounced shortly af­ter Trump tweeted about Bolton’s de­par­ture.

“So I am con­vinced, I have no doubts at all, that in any sit­u­a­tion – with talks, with­out talks – Pres­i­dent Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion will be very, very tough with Iran.”

Iran greeted Bolton’s ouster by coun­sel­ing the United States to shun “war­mon­gers.” But it has also been cold to re­cent Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion over­tures, say­ing it will not en­ter talks while un­der U.S. sanctions.

Trump said many peo­ple were in­ter­ested in Bolton’s po­si­tion. “There are five peo­ple that I consider very highly qual­i­fied,” he said. “We’ll be an­nounc­ing some­body next week, but we have some very highly qual­i­fied peo­ple.” He said he got along well with Bolton and hoped they parted on good terms, but added that the for­mer ad­viser was out of line on Venezuela, which has been an­other of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s top for­eign pol­icy chal­lenges.

While the two were mostly in sync on the need to push Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro from power, Trump had be­come in­creas­ingly im­pa­tient at the fail­ure of a U.S.-led cam­paign of sanctions and diplo­macy to re­move the so­cial­ist leader.

Among the names be­ing floated as pos­si­ble Bolton suc­ces­sors are Stephen Biegun, spe­cial U.S. en­voy on North Korea; Richard Grenell, U.S. am­bas­sador to Ger­many; U.S. hostage ne­go­tia­tor Robert O’Brien; and Deputy Sec­re­tary of State John Sullivan. –

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