After Trump Says 'No Preconditions' for Meeting With Iran - Pompeo Sets Preconditions

Iran responded to Trump, conditioned such meeting on Trump's return to the 2015 nuclear deal and suspend sanction

Pompeo listens as Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 18, 2018.
\ LEAH MILLIS/ REUTERS

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contradicted U.S. President Donald Trump after he laid out the conditions for talks between the United States and Iran.

Trump said Monday that he was willing to meet with Iran's leadership "anytime" and "with no preconditions."

Speaking later on CNBC, Pompeo said: "If the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes to how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior, agree that it's worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation, then the president said he is prepared to sit down and have a conversation with them."

Iran responded to Trump Tuesday, setting two preconditions to a possible meeting. Trump would have to agree to return to the internationally-backed nuclear deal with Iran and also would have to suspend new sanctions against Tehran before any talks, Hamid Abutalebi, an aide to Iranian President Hassan Rohani, said on Twitter.

"Respecting the Iranian nation's rights, reducing hostilities and returning to the nuclear deal are steps that can be taken to pave the bumpy road of talks between Iran and America," Abutalebi tweeted in Farsi.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet Washington should blame itself for ending talks with Tehran when it withdrew from a nuclear deal. "U.S. can only blame itself for pulling out and leaving the table," he wrote.

Different sentiments were also voiced Tuesday by senior Iranian parliament member Ali Motahari, who said now is not a good time for Iran to negotiate with the United States.

“If Trump had not withdrawn from (Iran’s) nuclear deal (with world powers) and had not imposed sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America,” Motahari, the deputy speaker of parliament, was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

“But negotiating with the Americans would be a humiliation now,” he said.

Trump's unexpected announcement of a willingness to meet follows days of sabre-rattling between the two camps through the media and via Twitter and as the United States prepares to step up sanctions against Iran.

Trump said a future meeting with Iranian leaders would be useful "if we could work something out that is meaningful, not the waste of paper the other deal is," a reference to the agreement reached under his predecessor Barack Obama in 2015 with international support. 

It was negotiated by the U.S., the European Union, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. The agreement was formally endorsed by the UN Security Council, incorporating it into international law.

In May, Trump withdrew the United States from the landmark 2015 international agreement designed to deny Tehran the ability to build nuclear weapons. 

Since then, Iran and other signatories have been working to find a way to salvage the agreement, even as the United States has begun reimposing some sanctions on Iran.