Administration

Trump says he would meet with Iran's leaders without preconditions

President Trump said Monday he's willing to meet with Iranian leaders without preconditions amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran. 

"It's good for the country, good for them, good for us and good for the world. No preconditions. If they want to meet, I'll meet," Trump said at a joint press conference with the Italian prime minister.

Trump said he would "certainly meet" with Iranian leaders if they wanted to, but added that he's unsure "if they're ready yet."

"I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet," he said. "And I'm ready to meet any time they want to. And I don't do that from strength or from weakness. I think it's an appropriate thing to do."

Trump's openness to a dialogue with Iran comes roughly a week after he issued an all-caps warning to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that he would face "consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered" if he threatened the U.S. 

The president's fiery tweet came in response to Rouhani's comments to Iranian diplomats that war with Iran is "the mother of all wars." He also left the door open to peace talks, saying peace with Iran is "the mother of all peace."

The back-and-forth raised speculation that the Trump administration might be considering military action against Iran. However, Defense Secretary James Mattis denied a news report that said as much last week, calling it "fiction."

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been tense for decades. However, Trump risked escalation when he withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year. The Obama-era agreement lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for the country curbing its nuclear program.

Every other country in the pact has vowed to uphold the deal, even in the United States' absence.

Former President Obama's efforts to establish relations with Iran drew significant backlash from Republicans.

Critics lambasted Obama after he said during the 2008 presidential race that he would meet with Iran's leaders without preconditions. Critics expressed concerns again in 2013 after Obama said he was "ready to engage" with Rouhani.

Many Democrats at the time expressed cautious optimism that it would be beneficial to talk with Iran.

In making the case for a meeting with Iran, Trump on Monday touted the results of his previous two efforts to reestablish diplomatic ties with foreign leaders: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump hailed both meetings as a success, pointing to an agreement with Kim to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. However, Democrats and skeptics have noted that the agreement contains few specifics.

Meanwhile, Trump has been roundly criticized for his performance with Putin, where he cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Trump extended an invitation to Putin to visit Washington, D.C., later this year, but the White House later said the follow-up summit will be put off until next year.

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