President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he would not be meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as world leaders gather in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, or UNGA. But he also complimented the Iranian president and expressed a desire to meet “someday in the future.”
“Despite requests, I have no plans to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani,” Trump tweeted. “Maybe someday in the future. I am sure he is an absolutely lovely man!”
Rouhani responded to the president’s Tuesday tweet in an interview with CNN, suggesting Trump wasn’t being “genuine.”
“Instead of talking he should show genuine honesty and seriousness,” Rouhani said. Trump “has been looking to meet for two years now, but such meeting should happen when it furthers the interests of both people and both countries.”
Subsequently, as he arrived at the UN on Tuesday, Trump said that “Iran has to change its tune before I meet with them.”
“It will happen. I believe they have no choice,” he said.
About two months ago, Trump was tweeting all caps threats to Rouhani
The president continued to go after Iran in remarks he delivered to the UNGA, but his earlier tweet marks a decidedly different tone than even a few weeks ago, when Trump issued strong warnings to Iran over its involvement in the conflict in Syria.
And a little over months ago, Rouhani and Trump were trading threats from across the globe.
After Rouhani warned the US that a war with Iran would be the “mother of all wars,” Trump tweeted a fiery response.
“To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”
Rouhani took what many perceived to be veiled shots at Trump in his speech to the UNGA on Tuesday. The Iranian leader said it’s “unfortunate” there are world leaders who gain popular support by “fomenting extremist nationalism and racism.”
Tensions between the US and Iran remain high
Ever since Trump withdrew the US from the landmark Iran nuclear deal, tensions between Washington and Tehran have reached historic heights.
But both governments have also gone back and forth on holding talks over a new deal, even as US allies have sought to uphold the pact. Independent assessments have determined that Iran still remains in compliance with the deal.
The deal, which was orchestrated by the Obama administration, is designed to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon by easing economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for a significant reduction in nuclear activities.
Trump has decried the deal for years, contending it didn’t do enough to deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions or its other nefarious activities around the world.
Economic sanctions Trump has leveled against Iran have helped cripple its economy, placing Tehran in a precarious position. The president has a strong advantage over Rouhani in this regard, which he alluded to in statements on Tuesday, but it doesn’t guarantee Iran will sit down at the negotiation table.