Published 7:36 p.m. UTC Jul 30, 2018
WASHINGTON – Defending his foreign policy approach to Russia and others, President Donald Trump said Monday he is willing to meet with Iran’s leaders on a new nuclear deal, but it has to be better than the “waste of paper” that made up the previous agreement.
“I would meet with Iran if they wanted to meet; I don’t know if they’re ready,” said Trump, who earlier this year took steps to kill an agreement in which the United States and allies agreed to reduce sanctions on Iran as Tehran gave up the means to make nuclear weapons.
Trump said he would hold a summit with Iran with “no preconditions,” and, “if they want to meet, I’m ready to meet anytime they want.”
The president spoke with reporters after a White House meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Trump said he and his Italian counterpart discussed a “strategic dialogue” on topics like counterterrorism, trade, reining in Iran, and, a subject Trump dwelt on at length, “uncontrolled migration” at their national borders.
“Border security is national security,” Trump said. “They are one in the same.”
Trump made the offer to Iran while defending other high-profile meetings he has held, including the much-criticized one this month with Russian President Vladimir Putin – and he added that sanctions on Russia will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Lawmakers and foreign policy analysts criticized Trump for meeting with Putin in secret and not detailing any commitments he may have made with the Russian leader.
Trump also took heat for suggesting he accepted Putin’s denials over the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to boost Trump’s chances.
An ill-defined meeting with Iran is not likely to yield much, said analysts, some of whom pointed out that Iran is an ally of Russia.
Aaron David Miller, a Middle East negotiator for presidents of both parties, said the suddenness of the offer shows that “Trump has no coherent Iran policy,” but only wants “to continue to dominate the narrative with his head-exploding whiplash comments” about a high-profile meeting.
“Without a serious approach toward Iran behind it, right now it falls somewhere between a gimmick and a publicity stunt,” Miller said.
Blaming “fake news” for criticism of the Putin meeting, Trump told reporters at the White House that he had “a great meeting” in Helsinki with the Russian president.
Meeting with people, even adversaries, is a good thing, especially if the possibility of war is at stake, Trump said, citing his offer to Iran as well as his June session in Singapore with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.
“I’ll meet with anybody,” Trump said. “I believe in meeting.”
While praising North Korea for returning U.S. hostages and the remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean War more that six decades ago, analysts said Kim’s government has yet to take concrete and verifiable steps to de-nuclearize their country.