‘We’ll see what happens on sanctions’
W A S H I N G T O N , Sept 12, (Agencies): US President Donald Trump has left open the possibility that the United States could ease sanctions on Iran, adding he believes Iran wants to strike a deal with Washington on its nuclear program. “We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about the possibility the United States would ease up on its “maximum pressure” campaign.
Trump’s firing of his hard-line national security adviser, John Bolton, on Tuesday prompted speculation that Washington’s policy toward adversaries such as Iran could ease. Separately, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would not negotiate with Washington while sanctions on his country are still being enforced by Washington. Trump said it would be “very very dangerous” for Iran to enrich uranium, a key step in developing a nuclear weapon, and also said, “I do believe they’d like to make a deal.” “If they do, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s great too,” he said.
“They have tremendous financial difficulty and the sanctions are getting tougher and tougher.” Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said the president is open to meeting with Rouhani, possibly at the United Nations General Assembly meeting later this month. Asked if he was looking at such a meeting, Trump told reporters he was not looking at anything. Meanwhile, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says Trump has no plans to meet with Rouhani while he’s in New York for the United Nations General Assembly later this month. Mnuchin said Thursday that such a meeting is “not planned at the moment,” even though Trump has made clear “he would sit down with Rouhani with no condition” to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.
Mnuchin also insists that the recent departure of former national security adviser John Bolton will not dramatically change the Trump administration’s posture on Iran. He says he and Pompeo “have been executing the president’s maximum pressure campaign” so there’s no “sea change.” Bolton was a hardliner on Iran who was skeptical of engagement. Australia’s foreign minister said on Thursday her government is pressing Iran to free three Australian citizens from a Tehran prison and she did not believe their arrests were related to Iran’s current conflicts with the West. Foreign Minister Marise Payne told the Senate that she had raised the arrests of two British-Australian women and an Australian man “many times” with her Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, while the Australian Embassy in Tehran had made “repeated representations to very senior Iranian officials” on the prisoners’ behalf.
Analysts and family members of dual nationals and others detained in Iran have long said hard-liners in the Islamic Republic’s security agencies use the prisoners as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West. A UN panel in 2018 described “an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals” in Iran, which Tehran denied.
Payne said she did not believe the arrests of Perth couple Mark Firkin and Jolie King, or the earlier arrest of a Melbourne academic, whose name has not been released, “relate to broader issues.” “We have no reason to think that these arrests are connected to international concern over Iran’s nuclear program, United Nations sanctions or sanctions enforcement or maritime security and the safety of civilian shipping,” Payne said.
Britain and Australia last month signed onto a US-led maritime security mission to protect international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran’s recent seizures of vessels has raised tensions with the West.