WASHINGTON – President Trump said on Monday he would be willing to meet Iran’s leader without preconditions to discuss how to improve ties after he pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying, “If they want to meet, we’ll meet.
“I’d meet with anybody. I believe in meetings,” especially in cases where war is at stake, Trump said at a White House news conference when asked whether he was willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
No U.S. president has met with an Iranian leader since the United States cut diplomatic relations with Tehran a year after the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah, a U.S. ally. President Barack Obama broke a three-decade freeze with a phone call to Rouhani in 2013.
There was no sign that Trump’s potential willingness to meet with his Iranian counterpart would mean any change in his administration’s intent to ratchet up sanctions and rhetoric against Tehran with the stated goal of “seeking changes in the Iranian government’s behavior.”
But Trump’s remarks did represent a marked softening in rhetoric from a week ago, when he lashed out at Rouhani in a tweet, saying “Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”
Shortly before that July 22 tweet, Rouhani had addressed Trump in a speech, saying that hostile U.S. policies could lead to “the mother of all wars”.
On Monday, speaking at a news conference with visiting Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte, Trump said: “I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet. I don’t know that they’re ready yet. I ended the Iran deal. It was a ridiculous deal. I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet and I’m ready to meet any time that they want to.”
Trump said he had “no preconditions” for a meeting with the Iranians, adding: “If they want to meet, I’ll meet.”
“If we could work something out that’s meaningful, not the waste of paper that the other deal was, I would certainly be willing to meet,” he added, noting that it would be good for the United States, Iran and the world.
Soleimani warns Trump: ‘If you begin the war, we will end it’
Major-General Qassem Soleimani, a powerful commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, said on Thursday, July 26, that Donald Trump should address any threats against Tehran directly to him, and mocked the U.S. president as using the language of “night clubs and gambling halls.”
The comments by Soleimani, who heads the Quds Force of the Guards, were the latest salvo in a war of words between the two countries.
“As a soldier, it is my duty to respond to your threats,” Soleimani was quoted as saying by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency. “…If you wants to use the language of threat … talk to me, not to the president (Hassan Rouhani). It is not in our president’s dignity to respond to you.”
Soleimani’s message was in essence a warning to the United States to stop threatening Iran with war or risk exposing itself to an Iranian response.
“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine,” Tasnim news agency quoted Soleimani. “…Come. We are ready … If you begin the war, we will end the war. You know that this war will destroy all that you possess.”