Rouhani: Iran Ready to Negotiate if U.S. Stops ‘Sanctions and Bullying’

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting during his provincial tour to the North Khorasan, Iran, Sunday, July 14, 2019. Rouhani said his country is ready to negotiate with the United States if Washington lifts its …
Iranian Presidency Office via AP

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that Iran is prepared to deal with the U.S. government if sanctions are lifted – a statement intended to make Iran look reasonable, even though it has demanded an unconditional end to sanctions as a precondition for negotiations many times in the past.

“The moment you stop sanctions and bullying, we are ready to negotiate,” Rouhani said on Sunday. 

“We have always believed in talks,” Rouhani claimed. “If they lift sanctions, end the imposed economic pressure and return to the deal, we are ready to hold talks with America today, right now and anywhere.” 

His reference to “the deal” meant the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 arrangement the United States withdrew from under President Donald Trump in 2018.

The Iranian president also claimed on Sunday that American sanctions against Iran have been a failure, the latest installment in Iran’s passive-aggressive game of claiming the sanctions are either completely ineffective or the cause of all of Iran’s economic woes.

“During the past 14 months, the U.S. has imposed the harshest sanctions against the Iranian people. However, any route that the U.S. has taken, be it political, social and legal, has led to failure,” Rouhani declared, as reported by the Tehran Times.

In the very same article, the Tehran Times quoted Rouhani giving a different speech on Sunday in which he admitted Iranians are “economically in a difficult situation” but insisted “it is wrong to say that the problems are rooted in the government’s incompetence.”

Also on Sunday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry declared Tehran has not held “talks with U.S. officials on any level,” disputing rumors from last week that Iranian officials have held secret meetings with their American counterparts in Iraq.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Monday there is a “small window to keep the deal alive” because “Iran is still a good year away from developing a nuclear bomb.” 

Hunt made these remarks at a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels convened to save the JCPOA despite Iran’s swiftly escalating violations of its terms. According to Hunt, the Brussels meeting would discuss whether to penalize Iran for these violations.

Hunt promised a “proper joint investigation” of Iranian violations but implied the investigators would take a very gentle approach with Tehran. 

“What we are looking for is to give Iran a way out of this so that they can get back into compliance with the nuclear deal,” he said.

Hunt reportedly offered to release the Iranian tanker seized by the British for sanctions violations as an incentive for good behavior, but his offer was embarrassingly thrown back in his face within hours by an intransigent Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who denounced Britain’s seizure of the ship as “piracy” and insisted Iran will sell oil to whoever it pleases, including Syria, where the tanker was allegedly bound when it was seized by the UK.

Speaking from Brussels, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom advised Iran to avoid further violations of the JCPOA because good behavior “improves their chances of having a good discussion with the [European Union] and other partners.”

“We have to use every opportunity to keep the deal,” she urged.

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