Trumping Iran

The American president warned, however, that if the Iranians don’t give up their weapons program, “they’re going to be met with really very violent force.”

August 28, 2019 21:56
3 minute read.
Trumping Iran

President Donald Trump announced on June 22 that the US would impose “major” additional sanctions on Iran.. (photo credit: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA)

As Israeli-Iranian tension escalate, US President Donald Trump indicated at the Group of Seven Summit in Biarritz, France, this week that he is ready to meet with Iran’s leadership.

“If the circumstances were correct or right, I would certainly agree to that. But in the meantime, they have to be good players,” Trump said on Monday at a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, who initiated the idea of a US-Iran summit.

The American president warned, however, that if the Iranians don’t give up their weapons program, “they’re going to be met with really very violent force.”

Despite his decision last year to withdraw from the 2015 Iran deal and renew tough sanctions against Tehran, Trump said Washington isn’t pursuing a regime change in Iran but instead is seeking to achieve “no nuclear weapons, no ballistic missiles.”

“They’re really hurting badly. Their inflation is through the roof. The sanctions are absolutely hurting them horribly. I don’t want to see that. They’re great people. I think there’s a really good chance we will meet,” the president said.

Trump’s overture to Tehran came a day after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise appearance at the G7 Summit. Macron confirmed he had extended an invitation to Zarif “on my own,” noting that he had informed Trump.

The Iranians, predictably, rejected the offer of a meeting, with Zarif saying it was “unimaginable” and President Hassan Rouhani declaring that no progress would be made unless Washington reverses its crippling policy of sanctions.

“In the relations between Iran and the US, we will not witness any positive development unless the US abandons the sanctions and corrects the wrong path it has chosen,” Rouhani said in comments broadcast on Iranian television. “The key to positive developments is in Washington’s hands.”

We beg to differ. The key to any movement is in Tehran’s hands.

If any US-Iran summit is to take place, Tehran must abandon uranium enrichment to advance its nuclear ambitions; stop funding terrorist attacks against the US and Israel by its proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza; stop developing long-range ballistic missiles; and accept the existence of the Jewish state. None of these appear to be on the horizon, though.

We would like to remind Trump that after he imposed new sanctions against Iran in May, the regime launched a series of attacks on US tankers in the area of the Strait of Hormuz and began to exceed the limits on uranium enrichment that it had accepted in the 2015 deal.

In June, Iran shot down an American military drone, after which Trump ordered – and then called off – a military strike against Tehran. Since then, Israel has stepped up its air attacks against Iranian assets, arms supplies and militias from Syria to Iraq, presumably with US approval.

On Sunday, a drone attack on a Shi’ite militia convoy in western Iraq reportedly killed a top commander and eight others. The night before, an IAF raid on Syria killed two members of Hezbollah – which also blamed Israel for an aerial attack south of Beirut that, according to The Times of London, targeted its precision-missile project.

In a rare statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed credit only for the Syria operation, but sternly warned Iran against a further escalation.

“Iran has no immunity anywhere,” he said. “Our forces are operating in every sector against the Iranian aggression.”

Israel does need to be prepared for the possibility that the US sits down and talks to Iran with the aim of reaching a new deal. Trump has a lot at stake if those talks begin - particularly the 2020 election - and he will want to show the American public that he can get a better deal. Israel, though, will need the deal to be substantively better: Cosmetic upgrades will not be enough.

Now is the time for Jerusalem to make its redlines clear to Washington, and for Trump to make sure that he will include Israel’s security needs in any future rapprochement with Tehran.

A new deal with Iran is not just any deal. It needs to stop the Islamic Republic from ever posing an existential threat to the Jewish state.

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