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Trump speaking on the phone
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Vucci

Trump 'open to talk' to Iran

May 9, 2019

The US president has suggested that he is willing to talk to Iranian leadership despite tensions between Washington and Tehran. But US officials have warned of "a swift and decisive US response" if Iran strikes first.


President Donald Trump told reporters at White House on Thursday that he was willing to hold talks with the Iranian leaders, should they reach out to him.

"What I would like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me," Trump said.

The US president claimed that John Kerry, former secretary of state, had told Iran "not to call."

"But they should call … If they do, we are open to talk to them."

Trump also said that he ordered the deployment of an aircraft carrier group to the Persian Gulf because the Iranians "were threatening."

"We have information that you don't want to know about," he said. "We don't want them to have nuclear weapons — not much to ask."

On collision course

On Wednesday, Iran informed signatories to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal that it no longer plans to adhere to certain "voluntary commitments" made in the accord.

The restrictions in place under the nuclear deal are aimed at curbing Iran's capacity to make a nuclear weapon. These include:

  • capping the stock and levels of purity to which Iran can enrich uranium 
  • implementing constraints at two enrichment centers
  • restricting the use of centrifuges
  • reducing the ability to produce plutonium.

Read more: Opinion: A desperate move by Iranian President Rouhani

Last year, Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and has since then increased sanctions on Iran. The US accuses Iran of violating the pact by secretly building nuclear weapons.

Iran's decision to withdraw from some parts of the nuclear deal came after the US dispatched the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group with a bomber task force to the Middle East to send a "clear and unmistakable" message to Tehran.

Risk of confrontation

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran against confrontation, saying, "The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against US interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive US response."

The latest developments have raised the risk of a military encounter between the US and Iran.

Read more: Iran nuclear-deal crisis: Is war with the US ahead?

When asked whether there was a risk of military confrontation with Iran, the US president said: "I guess you could say that always, right? I don't want to say no, but hopefully, that won't happen. We have one of the most powerful ships in the world that is loaded up and we don't want to do anything."

Ali Vaez, the Iran Project Director at the Crisis Group, believes the risk of a clash is "worryingly high."

"It certainly increases the risks. The presence of US warships in the Persian Gulf is not unusual. What is unusual is the Trump administration's level of bellicosity toward Iran. There is so much friction between Iran and the US — and their respective allies in the region — and with no channel of communication between these parties," Vaez told DW.

Need for a diplomatic solution

The European Union has called for a diplomatic solution to the standoff. On Thursday, leaders of the bloc reiterated their commitment to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but insisted they would not accept any ultimatums.

Read more: Europe rejects Iran 'ultimatums' on nuclear deal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined the need for diplomacy after an EU meeting on Thursday in Romania. "Our hand remains outstretched at this point; we want to continue to push for a diplomatic solution," said Merkel, adding that Iran should "consider what it will do in the future."

French President Emmanuel Macron urged Iran not to leave the 2015 nuclear deal. "Iran must remain in this agreement and we must do everything we can to ensure that it stays in," he told reporters in Romania, where EU leaders discussed the standoff.

ls,shs/jm (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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