When the newswires on the afternoon of July 16 reported Donald Trump as saying Washington had made a lot of progress in resolving its dispute with Tehran, the immediate feeling among many analysts was that he was talking out of his behind, and as the day came to a close the Iranians appeared to confirm that that was indeed the case.
During a White House Cabinet meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran had signalled it was ready to negotiate about its ballistic missiles, prompting Trump to say: “We’ll see what happens. But a lot of progress has been made.”
The only problem with that was that it was not at all clear any such signal had been given.
Pompeo appeared to be responding to a comment by Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that Tehran would discuss its missile programme if Washington ceased “making our region ready to explode” by freezing weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia—something the US is very unlikely to do—but his take on the matter drew a quick denial from the spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations, who posted on Twitter: “Iran’s missiles ... are absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period.”
Washington is using draconian sanctions to throttle Iran’s oil trade and wider economy in a policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran to agree stricter limits on its nuclear development programme, curb its ballistic missile programme and end support for proxy militia forces in Middle East power struggles with US-backed Gulf Arabs.
Europe is opposed to the US policy but has done little to help protect Iran’s economy, with European companies declining to continue trade with Iran because of the danger of secondary sanctions.
Iran has said it would only enter into talks with the US if Washington dropped its sanctions. It says the Americans are waging an “economic war” that is hurting ordinary and poor Iranians the most. The BBC reported on this matter from inside Iran in a news report released on July 16.
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