Donald Trump has said he “couldn’t care less” if Iran negotiates with the US — despite his own administration suggesting it was working to get the country “to come to the table” amid increasing tensions.
The president tweeted about comments made during an interview on Fox News Sunday with National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, in which the White House official said he believed “the maximum pressure campaign is working” and that “Iran is going to have no other choice but to come to the table” after the administration introduced a new round of sanctions against Tehran.
“National Security Adviser suggested today that sanctions & protests have Iran ‘choked off’, will force them to negotiate,” Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday night. “Actually, I couldn’t care less if they negotiate.”
He added: “Will be totally up to them but, no nuclear weapons and ‘don’t kill your protesters.’”
The tough talk comes after Mr Trump ordered the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, who died in a US air strike earlier this month. Iran has since responded by targeting multiple military bases in Iraq known to house US and coalition troops, though neither of the Tehran-linked air strikes have so far resulted in any US casualties.
National Security Adviser suggested today that sanctions & protests have Iran “choked off”, will force them to negotiate. Actually, I couldn’t care less if they negotiate. Will be totally up to them but, no nuclear weapons and “don’t kill your protesters.”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)January 12, 2020
Mr Trump also repeatedly warned Iran against killing protestors taking to the streets after Tehran was found to have shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, in which 176 people died, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three British nationals.
Iran has blamed human error for striking down the passenger jet, as well as “US adventurism” which it said led to the unintentional strike.
“To the leaders of Iran - DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS”, the president wrote on Sunday as demonstrators in Iran protested over the downing of the Ukrainian plane.
“Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching”, he continued. “More importantly, the USA is watching. Turn your internet back on and let reporters roam free! Stop the killing of your great Iranian people!”
The region has fallen into further instability amid the escalating crisis between Iran and the US. While the Pentagon has said US interests faced an “imminent threat” from Soleimani, White House officials have failed to present evidence of such claims, and some have even admitted to not actually seeing that evidence before Mr Trump ordered the air strike against the Iranian general.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also told reporters last week “we don’t know exactly which day it would’ve been executed”, but added that “Soleimani himself was plotting a broad, large-scale attack against American interests” and “those attacks were imminent”.
Mr Trump has meanwhile insisted Iran was possibly targeting four US embassies, though his secretary of defence said on Sunday he had not reviewed evidence supporting those claims.
On Sunday, Mr O’Brien brushed off Iran’s response to the conflict as “typical” and said increased economic pressure may ultimately result in a resolution.
“What's going to cause them to negotiate is the pressure on the economy,” the national security adviser said. “When you've got students out there chanting 'death to the dictator', and when you have thousands of Iranians out protesting in the street, that's the sort of pressure that's going to bring them to the table.”