This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton says President Donald Trump’s willingness to talk to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about Tehran’s nuclear program does not imply that the U.S. leader is about to change his tough stance on Iran.
In a wide-ranging interview with RFE/RL on August 27 in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Bolton said Trump has long made it clear “he’ll meet with anybody to talk. He is a negotiator. He is a dealmaker.”
“But talking with them does not imply — for President Trump, [it] does not imply — changing your position.
“I think if you look at what President Trump has said about the…the Iran nuclear deal, which he called the worst deal in U.S. diplomatic history — a view I think is amply justified by the facts — he is not going to make the same mistakes that [former U.S.] President [Barack] Obama made.”
Bolton added that “the idea that Iran would receive some tangible economic benefit merely for stopping doing things that it should not have been doing in the first place is just a nonstarter.”
The White House adviser said that “if there is a comprehensive deal, then, of course, the sanctions will come off at that point.”
“When the regime in Iran is ready to talk about that, then there will be a meeting,” he added.
in May 2018, Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran signed with six world powers during the Obama administration and began reimposing sanctions that had been eased in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
At the time, Trump said the terms of the deal were not strict enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and that it was violating the “spirit” of the accord by financing extremist terror in the region — accusations Tehran has rejected.
The U.S. sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy, with the country’s currency tumbling in value, leading to periodic street protests in Tehran and elsewhere.
Five other signatories, including France, Britain, and Germany, remain committed to the accord, although Iran has begun reducing some of its commitments under the agreement.
Trump, speaking at the close of a Group of Seven (G7) summit in France on August 26, said he would agree to meet Rouhani if “the circumstances were correct or right.”
He also said he had “good feelings” about the prospect of a new nuclear deal with Iran.
“We are looking for no nuclear weapons, no ballistic missiles, and a longer period of time. Very simple,” the U.S. president said.
Rouhani responded a day later by saying that while, Iran is open to talks, Washington must first “lift all illegal, unjust, and unfair sanctions imposed on Iran.”