In a disclosure that the New York Times said showed “a previously undisclosed level of hostility among top Iranian officials toward President Trump”, the paper reported Thursday that Iran had rejected eight requests from the White House for a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the United Nations General Assembly last year.
White House and State Department officials haven’t responded to Iran’s claim, made by Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, at a cabinet meeting. Reports of the remark first surfaced in Iranian state media. Iran’s Foreign Ministry has previously claimed that it denied a request for a meeting between the two leaders.
“Trump asked the Iranian delegation eight times to have a meeting with the president,” Mr. Vaezi said.
Since then, Trump has withdrawn the US from the 2015 Iran deal and restored sanctions against the country in defiance of the wishes of Russia, China and our European partners. Iran was also included in Trump’s travel ban, which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court. Despite this, Trump has also expressed a willingness to engage Iran and negotiate, though the two sides haven’t had much, if any, contact.
“The biggest obstacle to a U.S.-Iran dialogue is not Trump but Khamenei,” said Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow in the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Trump flew halfway around the world to meet with Kim Jong-un. Khamenei hasn’t left Iran since 1989.”
Obama and Mr. Rouhani spoke on the phone at the end of the 2013 General Assembly as the Iranian leader headed home. That was the first time an Iranian leader had spoken with a US President since the revolution.
Iranian officials also have threatened to renounce the nuclear accord if its European partners cannot find ways to bypass the American sanctions, which threaten penalties on all countries that engage economically with Iran. Hostilities have endured, and though Iran has expressed openness to engaging with the European Union and the accord’s other partners, many fear it will soon collapse. But regardless of what happens, it doesn’t appear the Iranians will be “engaging” with the Trump administration any time soon.