Speaking at an online event with the Aspen Security Forum on Friday, White House National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien outlined how U.S.-Iranian relations would move forward if Donald Trump won a second term in office.
Responding to a question raised by Stephen Hadley, the National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush who was moderating the discussion, O'Brien said that it would be exceedingly difficult for Iran to refuse to negotiate with Washington if Trump won the election on Nov. 3, claiming the impact of U.S. economic sanctions on Iran are so severe that the country cannot hold out for long.
O'Brien speculated that Iranian officials may be hoping that Vice President Joe Biden wins the election so that the U.S. will potentially return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) 2015 nuclear agreement, calling that outcome unlikely to happen.
"The countries with ties to Iran tell us that Iranians are waiting for the outcome of the U.S. presidential election," he noted.
O'Brien reiterated that if Donald Trump is reelected, the U.S. will never go back to the days of the JCPOA, adding that the election's outcome remains to be seen.
Referring to Trump's potential reelection, O'Brien said the severe pressure of economic sanctions would bring Iran back to the negotiating table.
"We think that if Donald Trump wins the U.S. presidential election, the economic pressures will be so great that Iran will not be able to resist for more than a month or two. It will not be able to withstand this pressure for another four years," O'Brien said.
"At the negotiating table, we want to see two things," he continued. "The first is the complete dismantle of Iran's nuclear program. This did not happen within the framework of the JCPOA. Iran's centrifuges are still spinning, and even now that we have left the nuclear deal, they are working more than ever. The nuclear program must be dismantled.
O'Brien did suggest that an Iranian non-military-led nuclear program under tight supervision and monitoring could be accepted by Trump's next administration, suggested O'Brien, adding that "a nuclear program with underground facilities that Iran could quickly resume whenever dissatisfied with the West is not an option."
An Iranian nuclear program capable of threatening Europe and the U.S. and engaging in terrorist activities, however, would not be acceptable, O'Brien reiterated.
Praising Iranian citizens, O'Brien expressed hope that Iran's leaders would agree to negotiate and reach an agreement with the U.S.
"As President Donald Trump said, an agreement can be reached with Iran, and the country will have a prosperous and happy outlook," O'Brien said, adding, "I hope Iran acts wisely and comes to the negotiating table."
Trump administration officials have announced in recent weeks that the policy of exerting maximum pressure on Iran would expand until Tehran relents and agrees to new rounds of talks with Washington.
Exerting maximum pressure on Tehran over the past two years has led to a widespread economic crisis, a sharp rise in the dollar's value, and a significant decline in Iran's foreign investment.
The Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on October 12, "We will turn the maximum pressure of the United States into its maximum disgrace and regret."
Calling on Iranian authorities to focus on "Iran's internal capabilities," Khamenei added, "We should not seek any cure abroad, because we do not see any good or benefit outside the country."
Khamenei's close allies and fundamentalist critics of President Rouhani's administration blame Rouhani for depending on foreigners and wishfully expecting events such as the next U.S. presidential election to resolve Iran's economic problems.