The departure of Iran hawk John Bolton as National Security Advisor has opened the way for a round of diplomacy with Iran that could ease tensions in the Persian Gulf considerably.
Bolton was a proponent of the “maximum pressure” policy on Iran with gradually increasing sanctions designed to pressure the terrorist state to behave. While the sanctions caused considerable economic pain for Iran, it didn’t moderate their behavior. Tehran has seized several ships in international waters which has increased tensions in the region. They have not shown any sign of leaning on their Houthi rebel allies in Yemen to seek talks with the government.
And they continue to build and expand bases in the entire region aimed at giving themselves an offensive capability to attack Israel.
Trump was apparently intrigued by a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to extend a $15 billion line of credit to Iran while waiving some sanctions in order to bring Tehran back into the Obama-era nuclear agreement and other considerations. Several sources within the administration confirm that a visit by Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to the G-7 meeting in France last week, where Macron’s plan was revealed, was connected to Trump’s interest in the proposal.
It would be Trump’s most abrupt policy about-face yet.
Several sources told The Daily Beast that foreign officials are expecting Trump to either agree to cooperate on the French deal or to offer to ease some sanctions on Tehran. Meanwhile, President Trump is also considering meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September.
“I do believe they’d like to make a deal. If they do, that’s great. And if they don’t, that’s great too,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “But they have tremendous financial difficulty, and the sanctions are getting tougher and tougher.” When asked if he would ease sanctions against Iran in order to get a meeting with Iran Trump simply said: “We’ll see what happens. I think Iran has a tremendous, tremendous potential.”
No doubt Iran has “tremendous potential,” but for what? The leadership of Iran is made up entirely of fanatical Islamic extremists who, quite simply, can never be trusted to fulfill any international obligations they supposedly take on. They have demonstrated time and again their utter contempt for international law. How can they possibly be expected to negotiate in good faith on anything?
Would Trump really go through with it?
Trump has to know that such a move would undermine him greatly. It’s one thing to play patty cake with Kim Jong Un while not actually giving him anything. It’s another to give sanctions waivers to Iran to keep the Mullahs from collapsing. There may not be preconditions necessary for talks, but they have to be necessary for lifting sanctions. Trump knows this, he’s said this many times, and he gains nothing by giving Iran a lifeline without getting anything in return.
For Trump to go back on a well-established policy, the price Iran pays would be steep. That’s why, in the end, I don’t think Trump will back the plan. It wouldn’t be the first time Trump had come out in favor of a high-profile proposal either domestically or internationally, only to pull back at the last second.
And it won’t be the last.