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A Look At How Iran Is Dealing With Growing Tensions With The U.S.


How does the U.S. confrontation with Iran look to a man who tried to bring the two countries together? Trita Parsi is our next guest. He is vice president of the Quincy Institute now. In a previous position, he led the National Iranian American Council. He supported the nuclear deal that President Obama concluded and from which President Trump withdrew the United States. Now under increasing pressure, Iran has shot down a U.S. drone, seized a British-flagged ship and begun reducing its compliance with the nuclear deal, which European nations and Russia and China are still in. Mr. Parsi, welcome the program.

TRITA PARSI: Thank you so much for having me.

INSKEEP: Is Iran's response appropriate?

PARSI: Iran's response is predictable. After having adhered to the nuclear deal for two years - 15 IAEA reports that confirm that they have adhered to it - they've gone to nothing (ph). And on top of that, the Trump administration has been sanctioning countries that are trying to trade with Iran, which is now legal, essentially, punishing countries for adhering to a U.N. Security Council resolution. At some point, the Iranians were going to start lashing out and counterpressure the United States. And...

INSKEEP: I guess we should mention that President Trump has offered a different alternative; he has said he would be happy to negotiate a new agreement with Iran. And he's even - not exactly sent emissaries, but allowed people like the prime minister of Japan or - the prime minister of Japan to go and offer the idea of talking.

PARSI: He certainly has, and he has done so while he is also conducting economic warfare against Iran and has violated the agreement that the U.S. already has signed. So his credibility when it comes to pursuing diplomacy is highly questionable, and that's why none of the other P5+1 countries or other parties of the deal actually have gone along with Trump's proposal.

INSKEEP: Would you tell the Iranians to negotiate?

PARSI: I would favor a negotiation, but I don't believe that it's very likely that the Iranians will come to the table and negotiate with Trump as long as Mike Pompeo and John Bolton are part of Trump's national security team because of the history that they have played in undermining diplomacy, and we've seen that in particular with North Korea. So I think the Iranians feel that if they're going to come back to the table and negotiate with the United States, they need to make sure that this time around the U.S. actually adheres to its work.


PARSI: And as long as John Bolton is there, they don't think that that's possible.

INSKEEP: How have - how has the administration undermined diplomacy with North Korea? I've heard the argument that they undermined diplomacy by backing out of the Iran deal, but they've actually tried to make a deal with North Korea.

PARSI: Well, John Bolton has a long history of sabotaging whenever there has been close to breakthroughs with North Korea. And we saw that Trump himself realized that he couldn't bring John Bolton with him to North Korea during this past trip because of the rejection from the North Korean side. The North Koreans have briefed the Iranians and convey the message that they've actually had an opportunity to deal with Trump, that Trump seems to want to make a deal, but whatever he agrees to is undermined by John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.

INSKEEP: One other thing I want to ask about - we mentioned that Iran has seized a British tanker. Difficult situation for the U.K. They're essentially on your side. They still favor the nuclear deal. They'd like to stay in it. They'd like to find a way to make it work. And now the Iranians have seized a British-flagged tanker that Britain is pledged to protect. What would you advise the U.K. to do now?

PARSI: Well, I think I would advise the U.K. not to have taken an Iranian tanker two weeks ago, which is what (ph) set off this entire crisis. I think at this...

INSKEEP: Well, they said Iran was sending oil to Syria, right.

PARSI: They were saying Iran was sending oil to Syria, but those are European sanctions that apply to European countries; it doesn't apply to other countries. And the Iranians have been doing this for quite some time, and the U.K. hasn't intervened. But this time around, apparently, according to the U.K. press, they intervened at the request of - guess who - John Bolton. So if the U.K. wants to stay in the deal and protect it, they should not have allowed itself to become a tool of John Bolton in his effort to sabotage the nuclear deal.

INSKEEP: Mr. Parsi, it's always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.

PARSI: Thank you so much for having me.

INSKEEP: Trita Parsi is vice president of the Quincy Institute. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.