WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - “We’re not looking for regime change in Iran. I just want to make that clear,” US President Donald Trump affirmed in Tokyo on Monday at a press conference that followed his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“We’re looking for no nuclear weapons,” Trump continued, as he emphasized his bottom line in dealing with Iran. “I’m not looking to hurt Iran at all. I’m looking to have Iran say, ‘No nuclear weapons.’”
The Iran nuclear deal, reached by his predecessor, Barack Obama, fell far short of that goal in Trump’s view. The Iranians would have had “free access” to nuclear weapons in “just a very short period of time,” he said, because of the “sunset clauses” in the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA.)
Trump’s statement included his prediction, “I think we’ll make a deal,” as he added, “I think Iran has tremendous economic potential, and I look forward to letting them get back to the stage where they can show that.”
“I know so many people from Iran,” he continued. “They are great people.”
Trump’s lengthy statement about Iran, including his conciliatory words, was all the more notable, because he was responding to a question at a press conference and the question was not about Iran. Rather, Trump was asked about North Korea. But after speaking with Abe, he clearly had a message to convey to Tehran.
Indeed, before the summit meeting, a journalist had shouted at Trump, “Do you welcome the Prime Minister negotiating between the US and Iran?”
“The Prime Minister and Japan have a very good relationship with Iran, so we’ll see what happens. The Prime Minister has already spoken to me about that,” Trump responded, and “if they’d like to talk, we’d like to talk also.”
Trump claimed that the US’ withdrawal from the JCPOA and the subsequent reimposition of sanctions has had a major impact on Iran.
“When I first came into office,” he said, Iran “was a terror.” They were fighting “all over the Middle East,” and “they were behind every single major attack, whether it was Syria, whether it was Yemen” or elsewhere.
But “now they’re pulling back, because they’ve got serious economic problems,” Trump continued, noting the “massive” US sanctions.
Trump’s conciliatory statements toward Iran came as the US has been beefing up its presence in the Persian Gulf in response to intelligence suggesting that Iran’s response to the tightened sanctions has been, in fact, to prepare to undertake covert attacks on US targets.
Prior to the Tokyo summit, the Japanese press had speculated that Abe might be planning a trip to Iran soon, as Bloomberg News reported. A senior Japanese official denied that, however.
Paul Davis, a former Pentagon analyst and now a Senior Fellow at Soran University, suggested to Kurdistan 24 that North Korea was Abe’s main concern and he might try to do Trump a service regarding Iran to keep Trump on board for dealing effectively with Pyongyang (Abe seemed to want Trump to be tougher on North Korea.)
Davis also suggested, “If there is a door to be opened in Iran, Japan might well be the country to open it.” Japan is a “major country,” but it has “a low profile in the region,” and that may be “just what is needed.”
No Japanese Prime Minister, while in office, has visited Tehran since before the Iranian revolution, some 40 years ago, Bloomberg explained. But a number of senior Japanese figures have visited Iran since 2012, when Abe took office. They include his wife and his brother, while in 1983, as Foreign Minister, his father made a trip there.
Editing by Nadia Riva