Home/Daniel Larison/Don’t Fall for Pompeo’s Empty Rhetoric

Don’t Fall for Pompeo’s Empty Rhetoric

Pompeo made a statement about talks with Iran that is much less meaningful than it seems:

The United States is prepared to engage with Iran without pre-conditions about its nuclear program but needs to see the country behaving like “a normal nation”, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

Iran dismissed the offer as “word-play”.

Like many other phony administration offers to negotiate, Pompeo’s proposal doesn’t really include anything new or different. The administration is still insisting on the preposterous demands that the Secretary of State delivered last year. That is what Pompeo’s “normal nation” reference means. In other words, the administration still expects Iranian capitulation, and they are willing to meet with Iranian officials to accept their surrender. The report continues:

“We are certainly prepared to have that conversation when the Iranians can prove that they want to behave like a normal nation,” he told a joint news conference with his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis.

Of course, this would not be a “conversation,” which implies give-and-take between equals who speak to each other with respect. This would amount to something much more like a demarche where the U.S. tells Iran what it must do and then expects Iran’s representatives to nod in agreement.

The Iranian government’s dismissive response is to be expected. For one thing, the distrust between Washington and Tehran is immense, so Iran’s government is bound to view any offer with suspicion. The Iranian government has already explained what the U.S. has to do if they want to talk about anything, and the administration has no intention of doing any of those things. As far as Iran is concerned, their nuclear program isn’t up for discussion, so what would be the point of meeting with U.S. officials when the administration remains committed to its outrageous policy of economic warfare and collective punishment?

Pompeo is an Iran hawk, but he is also a yes-man who seeks to curry favor with the president at all times. If he thinks that the president wants him to make diplomatic-sounding noises, he will make those noises, but it doesn’t mean very much in terms of the administration’s goals and means. Iran hawks are used to feigning interest in diplomacy while doing everything they can to undermine and poison it. As always, judge the administration by what it does and not what it happens to be saying at the moment. As long as the U.S. keeps its illegitimate sanctions in place and continues to make unrealistic and excessive demands, offers to talk are meaningless because the administration has already rendered negotiations useless.

There is an understandable temptation to seize on comments from administration officials as proof that they are giving up on a destructive and fruitless policy, but until the administration translates its rhetorical gestures into actions we should assume that the policy remains unchanged.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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