There were some deeply revealing words exchanged between Iranian and American officials through media statements on Sunday which add further confirmation that last month's seeming build-up to war has cooled; however, it doesn't mean the two sides are to talk anytime soon. By all appearances Tehran has called Washington's bluff over its latest threats of war and is now refusing an "opening" with the White House.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told ABC's "This Week" that mounting US threats and its "economic terrorism" in the form of sanctions have put any hope for restarting nuclear talks with Washington at a greater distance, as Trump's "threats against Iran never work." Zarif said, "Never threaten an Iranian. Try respect. That may work."
Zarif's words came as the US administration again extended an open hand for dialogue following Trump's last week's "call me" overture to Iran's leaders, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also saying on Sunday the White House is willing to talk to Iran "with no preconditions," and urged further for Iran to begin acting like “a normal nation”.
However, Pompeo also said sanctions will remain in place — something Tehran has repeatedly said is a non-starter.
Asked about comments by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday that Iran might be willing to hold talks if Washington showed it respect, Pompeo said: “We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no pre-conditions. We are ready to sit down.”
However, he said Washington would continue to work to “reverse the malign activity” of Iran in the Middle East, citing Tehran’s support to Hezbollah and to the Syrian government. — Reuters
So while the "maximum pressure" campaign continues, the White House seems to have already played its hand, and Iran has called it, with Zarif telling ABC's Martha Raddatz in the weekend interview:
"The last experience was not very optimistic and doesn't provide an optimistic perspective for a future agreement. This is what I believe is happening to the international community: People think twice before they talk to the United States because they know what they agree today may not hold tomorrow."
Other Iranian officials echoed Zarif's rejection of new talks after the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) in May 2018, dismissing Pompeo's offer as “word-play”.
Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran does not pay attention to word-play and expression of hidden agenda in new forms,” according to Reuters.
"We have not been here since Donald Trump was elected and pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal and what a difference we have seen."— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 2, 2019
ABC News' @MarthaRaddatz reports from Iran, where "fears of war seem to be dwarfed by a crippled economy" https://t.co/OOyW1kKf4N pic.twitter.com/AG3PTOXiXg
And President Hassan Rouhani also responded directly to Pompeo's remarks, saying on Sunday “The other side that left the negotiating table and breached a treaty should return to normal state.”
Among the more colorful responses again came from FM Zarif, who concluded of Trump's apparent "threaten... then negotiate from the extremes" rhetoric and tactic that, “This may work in the real estate market. It does not work in dealing with Iran.”