Following President Donald Trump’s dovish statements on Iran during his recent visit to Japan, the U.S. continues to exhibit its hard and soft approach toward its tough opponent in the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
The U.S. State Department made it clear on Tuesday that the Washington still insists on its original demands from Iran, which include renegotiating the nuclear agreement, curtailing its missile program and changing its behavior in the region.
Last May, when Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Washington’s demands in 12 points.
The State Department said Tuesday that if Iran is ready to “take a serious look at the 12 points…we’ll be ready to talk”.
In the daily briefing on May 28, spokesperson Morgan Ortagus in answering questions about the administration’s policy toward Iran also repeated that Washington is ready to engage with Iran, if Tehran wants to hold a dialogue.
Ortagus underlined, “I think that the President and the Secretary mean that sincerely.”
She also spoke of Europe’s role in helping pave the way toward an understanding with Iran. “We’ll continue to ask our European allies to help us get Iran to see this path towards normalization, to see and understand this path towards a 12-step process that the Secretary has laid out”, she said.
Meanwhile, U.S. National Security advisor John Bolton who is visiting the Gulf region continued his tough approach on Iran Wednesday accusing Iran of sabotaging four oil tankers off the coast of UAE in early May, saying the attack was by mines placed “almost certainly by Iran”.
He did not offer any evidence, but other U.S. officials have also said that Iran seems to have been behind the incident.
Bolton also claimed another previously unknown attempt to attack the Saudi oil terminal port of Yanbu.
Following the attack on the oil tankers, Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis have repeatedly targeted Saudi oil and other installations by drones, but an attack on Yanbu has never been mentioned before.
However, Bolton also said that attacks seem to have stopped, attributing the lull to U.S. military deployment around the Persian Gulf. He warned Iran that the U.S. will retaliate if attacked.
"The point is to make it very clear to Iran and its surrogates that these kinds of action risk a very strong response from the United States," Bolton threatened, without elaborating. But the U.S. did not show any military response after the attacks on the tankers or on Saudi Arabia, which were after Washington’s announcement of new deployments.
A half-dozen countries, from Japan to Oman and Iraq have been involved in or have offered mediation between Tehran and Washington. The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is preparing for a trip to Iran in June.
Trump’s softer tone in recent days and the mediation efforts might have put Tehran at ease in terms of a military attack and offered a glimmer of hope for talks, but continuing U.S. sanctions keep seriously impacting the country’s economy; a very tough challenge for the clerical regime to face.