(Persia Digest) - A university professor in the US believes: Chances of a meeting between Trump and Rouhani are slim; but even though a meeting between Trump and Rouhani may produce no substantive result, it might reduce tension for the time being.
A few hours after the ousting or resignation of John Bolton from the White House, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on 10 September that President Donald Trump could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming United Nations meeting, with “no preconditions.”
However, Trump denied it in a tweet on 15 September. But Trump has repeatedly said that he has no preconditions to meet with Iranian authorities, including at a press conference with the Italian Prime Minister on 30 July, 2018.
Hassan Rouhani has said that negotiations can only take place if all the sanctions against Iran are lifted. Although many analysts have said that Bolton leaving is a sign of de-escalation between Iran and the US, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has held Iran responsible for Houthi attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Senator Lindsey Graham even said Iranian oil facilities must be bombed.
Persia Digest has conducted an interview on the subject with Sasan Fayazmanesh, Professor Emeritus of Economics and Director of the Middle East Studies Program at California State University, Fresno, as follows.
Do you believe Trump and Rouhani should meet under the present circumstances to resolve the issues between Iran and the US?
Two of Trump’s characteristics appear to be racism and vanity. Racism has caused him to oppose, and try to overturn, everything that Barak Obama accomplished, including the 2015 agreement with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Vanity causes him to try to get credit for everything positive. So, if he could get a “deal" with Iran, he would be very happy. Indeed, he might have been quite happy with the JCPOA, if it appeared under his name. Given Trump’s vanity, it is tempting for his adversaries to meet with him. But there are other characteristics of Trump that his adversaries must consider. Some of Donald Trump’s former aids have reportedly described him as an “idiot,” “dope,” “moron,” “unhinged,” or as an individual who has the understanding of “a fifth- or sixth-grader.” You can also add to these traits irrationality and indecisiveness. These characteristics make Trump rely on his advisors—such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump’s recently dismissed advisor John Bolton—who could change Trump’s mind at the last minute. This was the case with negotiations between Trump and Kim Jong-un. It ultimately went nowhere, because Trump’s advisors started to demand too much from the North Koreans. However, Trump-Kim Jong-un negotiations had one positive outcome. It reduced tensions between the US and North Korea temporarily. The same might happen if there is any Trump-Rouhani meeting.
Are these the right conditions for a meeting between Rouhani and Trump? (Will the meeting take place?)
As I stated above, even though a meeting between Trump and Rouhani may produce no substantive result, it might reduce tension for the time being. Of course, Iran has its own ideologues, who have made such a meeting tabooed. To these ideologues Iranian political figures can meet the heads of all imperial powers in the world except the head honcho, the US president (even though there is usually not much difference between a US and a European official). Given this irrational taboo, the chances of a meeting between Trump and Rouhani appear to be slim.
Considering the outstanding issues between the US and N Korea (despite a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un), will a meeting between Rouhani and Trump help resolve the issues between the two countries or will it serve as a photo op?
I believe I have already answered this question. However, let me add that Iranian media often portrays a meeting between Rouhani and Trump as a photo opportunity. But this does not make much sense. Iran is so demonized in the Unites States that a picture of Trump shaking hands with Rouhani does not increase Trump’s chances of getting re-elected. But, as I said earlier, Trump could satisfy his own vanity by meeting Rouhani and claiming that he is master of the “Art of the Deal.” Even though this deal, like many other deals that he has pursued before, will not go very far.
In your opinion, what is Trump’s biggest faux pas in his Iran policy? How can he remedy this?
It is hard to say. He is a master of faux pas, rather than master of the “Art of the Deal”! As far as Iran is concerned, Trump’s biggest blunder was probably dismissing the entire JCPOA without having read the agreement. Now he is in a bind, he can neither go back nor forward.
Despite Bolton leaving the White House and Pompeo remaining, do you think the maximum pressure policy against Iran will change significantly?
The “maximum pressure” campaign was part of Trump’s own “Art of the Deal” way of thinking. Long before Bolton and Pompeo were selected, Trump was referring to the JCPOA as a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated.”
He wanted a new, unspecified and unclear, deal to satisfy his own ego. And he thought by putting severe economic pressure on Iran he could get a deal. So, Trump brought toxic neoconservatives, such as Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, to office to get such a deal. They, in turn, pursued the “maximum pressure” policy, which, I have to say, was not that different from Hillary Clinton’s “paralyzing sanctions” policy. Bolton was, of course, too unhinged to keep around and was ultimately fired. But Trump’s other associates and advisors, such as Pompeo, Brian Hook, Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, remain in place and will use Trump’s narcissism to formulate and reformulate the “maximum pressure policy.”
Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics and Director of the Middle East Studies Program at California State University, Fresno.
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