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Trump’s Bankrupt Iran Policy

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, President Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton at the NATO Foreign Ministerial in Brussels, Belgium on July 12, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

The head of the Trump administration’s Iran Action Group, Brian Hook, spoke at the Hudson Institute earlier today. He repeated the administration’s preposterous demands for Iran and feigned interest in negotiations:

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “have all made clear that we are ready to negotiate and to have those discussions,” Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, told the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank.

“There hasn’t been any aversion to meeting with the Iranians,” he added.

Hook stressed the goal was a “comprehensive deal” with Iran, based on a tough set of conditions Pompeo laid out in May.

The Trump administration’s willingness to “negotiate” with Iran is very much like its readiness to make a “deal” with the Palestinians: the other side is expected to make extensive concessions in exchange for nothing and will be punished severely until they agree to these humiliating terms. It is no wonder that the Iranian government has no interest in “negotiations” that amount to capitulation. Even if the U.S. had not reneged on the nuclear deal and proven that it can’t be trusted to honor its commitments, it would be extremely unlikely that Iran would be open to making more concessions than it has already made on the nuclear issue. Once the U.S. reneged on the deal, that made it politically impossible for any Iranian leader to negotiate with Washington. Once the U.S. started reimposing sanctions without justification, it became clear that the administration’s real goal was not a “new deal” but the destabilization and toppling of the regime.

The administration’s feigned interest in diplomacy is an unpersuasive attempt to dress up a cruel and destructive policy of collective punishment as something more reasonable. Hook claimed that the administration is open to negotiating a “treaty” with Iran to cover all outstanding issues, but no one believes this is serious. The Trump administration can’t even honor a nonproliferation agreement that cost the U.S. nothing, so why would anyone believe they would be willing to honor a “comprehensive deal”? Many of the things that would be contained in the “comprehensive deal” are also obvious non-starters for Iran, so why would Tehran even consider talking about them?

Trump’s policy is deeply hostile to both the Iranian government and the people of Iran. Why would the Iranian government want to talk to people that have no respect for them, refuse to honor commitments to them, and actively seek to harm them? The simple answer is that they have no reason to talk to the U.S. as long as Trump is in office, because Trump’s idea of “negotiation” is to demand that they give up everything in return for nothing.

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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