Trump Says He’s Willing to Meet With Iranian President; Raises Prospect of a New Nuclear Deal

By Patrick Goodenough | August 27, 2019 | 4:23am EDT
President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron hold a joint press conference in Biarritz on Monday. (Photo by Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

( – President Trump said Monday he was willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani “if the circumstances were correct,” after French President Emmanuel Macron announced at the end of the G7 summit that Rouhani had reacted positively to a French diplomatic initiative.

Speaking alongside Macron in Biarritz in southwestern France, Trump added that the Iranians in the meantime “have to be good players – you understand what that means – and they can’t do what they were saying they’re going to do, because if they’re going to do that, they’re going to be met with really very violent force.”

Aside from that, Trump did not spell out what the right “circumstances” for a meeting would be.

Macron referred to the possibility of a Trump-Rouhani meeting “in the next few weeks” and when Trump was asked it that sounded a realistic timeline he replied, “It does.”

Rouhani and Trump are both expected to be in New York City in just under a month’s time for the annual U.N. General Assembly session opening.

Trump alluded to the possibility of a new nuclear deal with the regime in Tehran. Significantly, Macron also spoke about building “a much further-reaching agreement,” saying that U.S. policies have had a serious impact on Iran’s economy, “creating pressure and therefore the necessary conditions to improve the terms of an agreement.”

French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in New York in 2017. (Photo by Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

Trump suggested three issues would be key for the United States: that any new agreement require far more extensive verification of Iranian sites, that it should not have a short lifespan, and that it should include restrictions on the regime’s ballistic missile activity.

Perceived weaknesses in those areas were among the reasons Trump gave for withdrawing last year from the deal negotiated under his predecessor, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“The JCPOA was a bad deal; it should not have been entered into,” he said. “They’re allowed to test ballistic missiles. You’re not allowed to go to various sites to check, and some of those sites are the most obvious sites for the creation or the making of nuclear weapons. And those things have to be changed, and other things have to be changed.”

France and the other parties to the JCPOA (Britain, Germany, Russia, China, and Iran itself) all opposed the U.S. decision to exit the accord, but Trump said in Biarritz that they would likely one day thank him for having left the “ridiculous” deal.

‘Great negotiators’

The seven partners in the talks hammered out the JCPOA in marathon negotiations in European capitals. The U.S. administration at the time touted the outcome as the best deal available, with President Obama hailing “the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.”

Trump, however, has described himself as an exceptional dealmaker, and on Monday repeated his often-stated assessment that Iran after months of sustained U.S. economic pressure is “not the same country that it was two-and-a-half years ago when I came into office.”

Still, he acknowledged that the Iranians, whose team in the talks was led by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, were strong negotiators. He suggested that Obama and then-Secretary of State John Kerry, Zarif’s opposite number in the negotiations, had been outplayed.

“They’re great negotiators,” he said of the Iranians. “Look at what they did to get the deal. Look at what they did to John Kerry and to President Obama, look what happened.”

Trump then recalled the money Iran had received from the U.S., in cash, when the deal took effect.

(In January and February 2016 received $1.7 billion, in cash, in what the Obama administration said was settlement of a claim for funds paid before the 1979 Iranian revolution for undelivered military equipment. It said $400 million was frozen Iranian funds, while the other $1.3 billion of U.S. taxpayers’ money was accrued interest. The first payment was made in foreign currency banknotes, stacked on pallets and flown in on an unmarked cargo plane.)

Trump said Iran was a country with incredible potential, and said that he was “not looking for leadership change.”

“We’re looking for no nuclear weapons, no ballistic missiles, and [an agreement lasting for] a longer period of time,” he said. “Very simple, we can have it done in a very short period of time.”


Macron said that for the Iranians to be persuaded to move in the right direction, they would need to be offered “economic compensation of some form,” such as lines of credit or the reopening of “certain economic sectors.”

When Trump was asked later during the press conference about compensation to Iran, he said what was being talked at was not compensation, but that the Iranians may need a short-term “letter of credit-type facility” or “some money to get them over a very rough patch.”

Any such arrangement would be “secured by oil” and would be repaid “very quickly,” he added.

Trump disputed that he had been taken by surprise by Zarif’s arrival at the G7 summit, where he held talks with Macron on the summit sidelines – saying the French president had kept him informed throughout.

Macron said Rouhani has reacted positively to the French diplomatic initiative.

Rouhani was quoted as saying on Monday, “If I think that meeting with someone can resolve my country’s problems, I will not hesitate, because protecting the national interests of my country is a principle for me.”

However, an “informed source” also told Iran’s Press TV that the government has already made it clear to Macron that Iran’s missiles would not be up for negotiation.

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