Home/Daniel Larison/Iran Won’t Talk Until ‘Maximum Pressure’ Is Gone

Iran Won’t Talk Until ‘Maximum Pressure’ Is Gone

Iran President Rouhani and U.S. President Trump. Drop of Light/Shutterstock and Office of President of Russia.   

The Iranian government welcomed Bolton’s firing, but their position on talking to Trump hasn’t changed:

Iran said Wednesday the sacking of John Bolton as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser will not necessarily pave the way for negotiations with the United States.

“The departure of US National Security Adviser John Bolton from President Donald Trump’s administration will not push Iran to reconsider talking with the US,” state news agency IRNA quoted Iran’s United Nations envoy Majid Takhteravanchi as saying.

Takhteravanchi said there was no reason to engage in talks while the US sanctions against Iran remain in place.

“As long as the US government’s economic terrorism and such cruel sanctions are imposed on the Iranian people, there is no room for negotiations,” the Iranian envoy said, adding that any meeting must be held within the framework of the group of major powers that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal.

Bolton was certainly an obstacle to deescalating tensions with Iran, but firing him won’t be sufficient to make the Iranian government decide that negotiating with the U.S. is something worth doing. After all, the “maximum pressure” policy remains in place, more sanctions are added practically every week, and Pompeo and Hook don’t appear to be going anywhere for the time being. The Iranian position is simple: they won’t talk to Trump while their country is being strangled with sanctions. Trump grew tired of Bolton, but there is not yet much evidence that he is tired of waging economic war on the Iranian people. Unless the “maximum pressure” campaign ends, the Iranian government doesn’t think there is anything to discuss. Removing one fanatical adviser is good, but it isn’t going to change that position. Trump needs to abandon “maximum pressure” if he wants to talk, and no one expects him to do that.

Timereported yesterday Trump’s willingness to meet Rouhani was one of the reasons that he and Bolton quarreled on Monday when they were supposed to be talking about how Bolton had been kept out of a meeting in Afghanistan:

Then on Monday, Trump and Bolton spoke to try to clear the air. Bolton brought up the fact that he was left out of a meeting on the Afghanistan negotiations, a U.S. official who was briefed on the conversation tells TIME. As the discussion progressed, it began to spiral outward into Bolton’s broader questions about Trump’s willingness to meet with Iran’s president. “It was supposed to be a very, very limited,” discussion, the U.S. official says, “About how Bolton had been left out of a meeting on Afghanistan and it became a ‘Why are you meeting with Rouhani?’” conversation instead.

It would be bizarre if Trump and Bolton ended up finally falling out over the president’s willingness to meet with Rouhani when no meeting is happening. Trump has repeatedly sought meetings with Rouhani in the past, and Rouhani has always refused to meet because he and his government saw no point in having the meeting. If the Iranian government wasn’t interested in a pointless meeting at the U.N. in 2017, why would they agree to one now?

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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