On Tuesday Mr.Mike Pompeo Secretary of State stated that Iran appeared willing to negotiate over its missile program “for the first time,” in what he and President Trump presented as evidence that sanctions and military pressure were working, less than a month after the president halted a planned military strike against Iran.
But within hours of the statement to reporters, delivered before a cabinet meeting on the White House, the concept was shot down by Iran’s international minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was in New York for a meeting at the United Nations. His spokesman mentioned that the two men had misinterpreted Mr. Zarif’s public statements, in which he repeated past demands that if the United States “wants to talk about missiles, it should stop selling weapons, including missiles, to regional states.”
It was an apparent reference to American weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran’s other Arab adversaries.
The odd exchange and the apparent misconstruing of Mr. Zarif’s comments seemed to underscore the eagerness of the White Home to turn weeks of confrontation with Iran into some negotiating opportunity — and a reminder of how hard that will be to accomplish. Iranian officials have repeatedly said they would interact with Mr. Trump only after he re-joined the 2015 nuclear accord, which he withdrew from last year.
The alternate between officials of the two countries followed a string of private messages and efforts at outreach that seemed intended to de-escalate a series of confrontations that many feared could result in warfare, either accidentally or deliberately.