President Trump on Monday implemented harsh sanctions by executive order against Iran which targeted the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others. But while a series of U.S.-imposed, Trump-approved sanctions have angered Tehran amid rising tensions between the two countries, the president might not be the antagonist in Tehran's eyes, said Trita Parsi, the head of the National Iranian American Council during a Monday appearance on The Hill's Rising.
Instead, he argues, that National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are the problem. Parsi said that Bolton and Pompeo are "walking around talking about regime change," which makes it difficult for Tehran to believe Trump's publicly stated desire to avoid conflict. He added that Iran is hearing directly from North Korea about Trump's willingness to make deals, but that Bolton and Pompeo wind up sabotaging negotiations.
"I suspect if Trump lets go of Bolton and potentially Pompeo, it could actually open up some space in which the Iranians would start at least beginning the first movements of diplomacy," Parsi said. But if that doesn't happen, he said, it's unlikely Tehran will come to the table. Tim O'Donnell