Trump opens door to easing of Iran sanctions
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. –