The US is looking to negotiate a treaty with Iran to regulate its ballistic missile and nuclear programs, US special envoy for Iran Brian Hook said on Wednesday.
“The new deal that we hope to be able to sign with Iran, and it will not be a personal agreement between two governments like the last one: we seek a treaty,” he said, ahead of a UN Security Council meeting in New York next week, chaired by President Donald Trump.
Hook admitted, however, that Iranian leaders, for some inexplicable reason, did not seem interested in talking with the US – even though President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo generously expressed their willingness to negotiate with Tehran. In order to convince Tehran to talk, Hook threatened it with “stronger measures” than the crippling sanctions already imposed by the US.
US-Iran relations soured rapidly this year, after Trump withdrew the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran deal, in May, to the loud applause from Israel and the criticism of US allies in Europe. The JCPOA wis signed by the US, Iran, China, France, Russia, UK and Germany, and granted Tehran some sanctions relief in exchange for a halt to its nuclear program. Trump, however, returned to a hardline anti-Tehran policy and has been pressusing allies into abiding by its unilaterally reintroduced sanctions, targeting oil-rich Iran’s energy sector.
Meanwhile, the US State Department announced the creation of the Iran Action Group, an effort to support opposition groups in Iran. Middle East expert Igor Pankratenko told that this effort “continues on the strategy to overthrow the existing Iranian government.” National security adviser John Bolton denied that the US is seeking regime change, but promised America would do “other things” to force “massive change in the regime’s behavior.”
In light of Washington’s apparent untrustworthiness, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that he will not meet with US officials at the upcoming UN meeting, called Trump a “warmonger” and said that “the Americans lack honesty.”
Zarif’s statement is representative of much of Tehran’s communication of late. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month that Iran will not negotiate with Washington while being sanctioned at the same time, describing such tactics as “psychological warfare [against] the Iranian nation,” adding that “Trump’s call for direct talks is only for domestic consumption in America … and to create chaos in Iran.”
Given how quickly Washington can change its mind, why would Iran be inclined to trust a new deal? “I said many times from the first day: Don’t trust America,” Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, when Trump pulled out of the JCPOA. In a fiery statement on Facebook, the cleric said that Trump “will turn to dust and his body will become food for snakes and ants…and the Islamic Republic will still be standing.”
Even some soldiers within Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who regularly threaten America in the media, had softened their opinion of the US in 2015, when the JCPOA was signed, a retired IRGC captain told Foreign Policy magazine. Now though, many of his IRGC colleagues are scolding themselves for their naivety.
“We were naive to think the United States would keep its promises in a deal with us,” the captain said. “I thought enough time had passed since the revolution that we could potentially engage with America again.”
In 2018, the IRGC’s rhetoric has returned to its default ‘death to America’ mode. “Mr Trump! Iran is not North Korea to accept your offer for a meeting,” said IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari, as quoted by the state Fars News agency earlier this summer. “Even US presidents after you will not see that day.”
The North Korea example is a relevant one since, while strides have been made towards peace on the Korean peninsula, both Trump and Kim Jong-un were threatening each other with nuclear annihilation this time last year, before the abrupt thaw in relations this spring. While both leaders made vague commitments to peace, the North Korean leadership didn’t have to cast its mind back too far to see what eventually happened to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi after he surrendered his nuclear program, and demand some real guarantees from Washington, besides empty promises.
Iranians too will remember the CIA-orchestrated ousting of the country’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, 65 years ago. Mossadegh’s plans to nationalize Iran’s oil reserves clearly displeased the US and Britain, and he was swiftly imprisoned and replaced by the brutal dictatorship of the Shah.
That Pompeo announced the creation of the Iran Action Group on the very day Mossadegh was toppled in 1953 is likely no accident. And it is also unlikely that the current Iranian government will be willing to enter into a bilateral agreement with the US with no guarantees any time soon, no matter how good the terms.