For all of Iran’s fierce verbal response to fresh U.S. threats of tougher sanctions, some senior officials in Tehran believe the door to diplomacy should stay open.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented a list of sweeping demands for Iran, including abandoning nuclear enrichment, its ballistic missile program and its role in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, or face “the strongest sanctions in history”.
Four senior Iranian officials contacted by Reuters interpreted Pompeo’s remarks as a “bargaining strategy”, similar to Washington’s approach to North Korea.
Last year U.S. officials were pressing for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang and sent an aircraft carrier to the region in a show of strength before relations eased to a point where President Donald Trump may hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“America does not want to get involved in another war in the region. Iran also cannot afford more economic hardship … always there is a way to reach a compromise,” said one of the Iranian officials, who was involved in Iran’s nuclear talks with major powers for two years.
“The era of military confrontations is over,” the official said. Like others giving their views on relations with the United States, the official asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
However, it will be difficult for Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to back any diplomatic solution, because doing so could undermine his credibility among his hardline power base, who reject any detente with the West.