Trump’s Indecisiveness on Iran

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, August 1

While consistency isn’t necessarily the first word that jumps to mind when describing U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy stances, the American president’s open invitation to Iran to renegotiate the nuclear deal was a shocking departure from his previous position. Just a week ago, Trump published a tweet threatening to annihilate the mullah regime in Iran if it fails to comply with Washington’s demands. This week, all of the sudden, Trump sounds conciliatory and appeasing of Tehran. Indeed, the past few weeks have been particularly tough in Iran. The country’s currency, the rial, plummeted to a record-low of 100,000 rials to the dollar, amid a growing financial crisis. Acutely aware of the risk posed by this crisis to his regime, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was quick to turn to Oman with a request to mediate between his own government and the American one. Trump, to his credit, played a wise game. While he ordered the full re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, he has done so gradually, in a few phases. This allowed Tehran’s largest trading partners, especially in Europe, time to adapt to the new sanction regime. But it also tested Rouhani’s red lines and his ability to compromise. Truthfully, it’s too soon to announce winners and losers in this battle. Only time will tell whether Trump’s policy will be successful or not. However, one thing remains clear: The Iranian regime will not be able to endure this crisis much longer. Something will eventually have to give: Either the Iranian economy, or the Iranian regime, will collapse. Trump, who is well-aware of this reality, seems to be open to the idea of maintaining Rouhani’s rule, so long as the latter agrees to renegotiate the deal and curb all of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Therefore, the president made it clear that he would be willing to meet Rouhani without any preconditions. It is clear beyond any doubt that the side making the concessions here would be Iran, not America. –Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

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