(Bloomberg) -- Iran could consider talks with the Trump administration if it first returns to the 2015 nuclear deal and ends its sanctions, the vice president said, as fears grow that the two countries are heading for armed conflict.
“If they go back to the original position that they had at the beginning of their government then yes, it can be considered,” Masoumeh Ebtekar said in an interview at her office in Tehran on Wednesday. The accord, which Trump abrogated last year, is “a clear framework and agreement, and it complies with the expectations the American president recently mentioned -- that Iran doesn’t attempt to seek nuclear weapons,” she said.
That echoes an argument made by America’s own allies in Europe, which remain supportive of the hard-won diplomatic agreement as the best way to engage Iran on other issues of concern, such as its regional policies. Iran last week said it would stop fully abiding by its enrichment obligations under the deal if economic benefits can’t be secured.
Ebtekar, who became a de facto spokeswoman for the revolutionaries who in 1979 occupied the U.S. embassy and held 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, said Trump and National Security Adviser John Bolton “are stuck in that point in history and they cannot move forward.”
She cited Bolton’s past attendance at events organized by the Mojahedin-e Khalq, a dissident political group banned by Iran after the Islamic Revolution that then aided Saddam Hussein’s forces during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, as evidence of his ideological “rage” aimed at Tehran.
Trump, meanwhile, appears determined to pursue “his personal agenda to take revenge on President Obama for making this deal with Iran,” she said.
Trump has reimposed sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, designated its elite forces as terrorists, hastened the deployment of a carrier strike group to the Gulf, and this week ordered some embassy staff to leave neighboring Iraq after claiming intelligence showed a growing threat from Iranian-backed militias.
The U.S. says it aims to bring Iran back to the negotiating table, but to many in Tehran the growing pressure looks more like an attempt at regime change, one that brings the risk of another Middle East war. Trump’s team “don’t know where they’re headed or what the ultimate objective is,” Ebtekar said.
Ebtekar, who became the first woman member of an Iranian cabinet in 1997, said that sanctions were disproportionately tough on women because they’re often responsible for family finances and typically work in smaller private businesses vulnerable in an economic downtown.
As head of Iran’s Women’s and Family Affairs Organization, she clashed with conservatives opposed to improving the status of women. Last week, she had a success as parliament voted to allow children born to Iranian mothers and foreign fathers to gain Iranian citizenship. She was confident the change would be approved by the Guardian Council, which vets legislation.
To contact the reporter on this story: Golnar Motevalli in Tehran at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at email@example.com, Mark Williams, Amy Teibel
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.