Has the White House gotten delusional on Iran (or likely has been for a long time)? Or does Trump really think this could happen without dropping sanctions?
After the president yesterday again told reporters "anything is possible" when asked about bilateral talks with Tehran's leadership at an upcoming UN General Assembly meeting in New York, Bloomberg has cited a report in Japan’s Kyodo News saying the US has indeed offered such talks, envisioned to happen on or around September 25.
According to the report, based on information from an unnamed US official:
The United States has proposed a meeting between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the fringes of the upcoming U.N. General Assembly in New York, according to a U.S. government source.
The overture was reportedly made this week via French intermediaries, who have been meeting with an Iranian delegation in Paris to discuss Macron's proposed $15 billion credit line plan in return for Tehran's nuclear compliance.
The report continues:
Washington's proposal has been conveyed to Tehran through countries such as France, which has been eager to mediate in the ongoing U.S.-Iran standoff over an Iran nuclear deal reached in 2015. Iran had not responded to the proposal as of Wednesday, the source said.
Of course the key problem is the White House has stated in no uncertain terms it is not willing to walk back sanctions.
On Wednesday - the very day the administration is said to have reached out to Tehran offering talks on the sidelines of the UN meeting - the US imposed fresh sanctions on any and all oil shipping networks with ties to Iran's IRGC or its proxies.
This further included the State Department offering up $15 million for anyone with information on illicit Iranian and Hezbollah oil deals or shipping. The US is now also literally bribing ship captains.
"There will be more sanctions coming," US special envoy for Iran Brian Hook told reporters at the State Department. "We can't make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure."
If there's one thing that should be clear after this chaotic summer of Persian Gulf and Mediterranean 'tanker wars' - and repeat US sanctions, threats and military build-up of forces - it's that Iran is simply not bowing amid the pressure. Instead it's clearly waged its own 'counter pressure campaign' (for example, still refusing to release the British tanker Stena Impero) while refusing to come to the table.
Tehran's "nothing to lose" aggressive acting out and defiance will likely only grow, given it senses Trump's deep reluctance to go to war (whether the White House might give Israel a long leash to act militarily, as it's recently done against Iran-backed militias in Iraq, is another question).
The whole 'max pressure leading to new talks' strategy made impressive headway with North Korea, but Tehran was never as isolated as Pyongyang, given it has powerful sympathizers like China and Russia willing to play ball as a counterweight to Washington demands and pressure.