Trump, Pompeo Hint at US-Iran Talks amid Growing Tensions
US President Donald Trump says that progress has been made toward reducing tensions with Iran, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo adding that the Islamic Republic is prepared to reenter negotiations related to its ballistic missile program. The president did not elaborate on his comment although he suggested that the White House was not seeking regime change in Tehran. The dual assertions come as Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned that his country would continue developing its atomic program in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, from which President Trump withdrew in May 2018. Moreover, a spokesperson for Iran’s UN mission rejected the claims, writing on Twitter that Tehran’s “missiles… are absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period.” The Trump Administration has imposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic, with a view to forcing it back to the negotiating table, a policy that has come up against resistance from the remaining parties to the accord – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. The Europeans, in particular, remain committed to salvaging the pact by introducing a financial mechanism to allow ongoing non-dollar trade with the mullahs. Meanwhile, tensions in the Middle East continue to escalate, with news surfacing this week that a United Arab Emirates-owned oil tanker had gone missing after transiting the strategic Strait of Hormuz and entering Iranian waters. The US has accused the Tehran of orchestrating numerous recent attacks on ships in the Gulf, as well as using its proxies to target American interests in Iraq as well as critical infrastructure, including civilian airports, in Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, Iran announced that it had exceeded the nuclear agreement’s 300-kilogram stockpile limit for 3.67-percent enriched uranium and that it would begin enriching to 4.5% purity, hinting broadly that it could next aim for 20%. Experts have warned that the move could shorten the timeframe needed for the Islamic Republic to produce the 90%-enriched uranium required for a nuclear bomb.