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The Impasse with Iran

President Trump and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com, European External Action Service/Flickr

Iran and the U.S. aren’t going to be talking anytime soon:

On potential dialogue with Washington, Mr Zarif said: “First they need to show us that reaching an agreement with the US will have some benefit or not and then they can ask for talks about any other deal.”

The U.S. cannot demonstrate to the Iranian government that they will benefit from any agreement that they might make with this administration. Even if the offer looked good on paper, they would have no reason to trust this administration to follow through on any commitments. Because the administration is in thrall to Iran’s regional enemies, the offer will not be appealing in the first place. Iran has every incentive to avoid talking to the U.S. right now, and the administration’s interest in negotiation is disingenuous and purely for show.

There is speculation that the impending Iran visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could help to facilitate dialogue between our two governments, but the core disagreements remain unchanged. Prime Minister Abe has a reasonably good relationship with the Iranian government. As it happens, his father was a previous Japanese foreign minister who traveled to Iran on a trip that he also took part in more than thirty years ago. Abe might be a perfectly capable intermediary, but he cannot bridge the gap that exists between Iran and the U.S. at the present time. Trump will never rejoin the JCPOA, and Iran won’t consider any talks with the U.S. until our government reenters the agreement. In that sense, there is nothing for Abe to mediate, and there is nothing to talk about.

The recent imposition of additional U.S. sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical industry confirmed that proposals to talk were just so much empty rhetoric:

“It was only necessary to wait one week until the claim of the president of America about talks with Iran were proven to be hollow,” Mousavi said in a statement. “The American policy of maximum pressure is a defeated policy.”

The administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign is not merely ineffective, but makes any diplomatic resolution much less likely. As long as Iran is being subjected to unjustified sanctions, they are not going to negotiate with the administration about anything. Trump and his officials have completely misjudged the situation, and they don’t understand that Iranian intransigence will continue to increase as they increase pressure. If they were genuinely interested in diplomacy with Iran, they would not be tacking on more and more sanctions, but of course they have no interest in a diplomatic solution. If they had, they would not have spent the last thirteen months trying to destroy a major successful nonproliferation agreement that the rest of the world supports.

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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