President Donald Trump said Sunday he does not intend to meet with Iran at the upcoming UN General Assembly, days after Iran denied involvement in an attack on Saudi oil facilities and the US announced new sanctions against the longtime US foe.
“Nothing’s ever off the table completely, but I have no intention of meeting with Iran, and that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I’m a very flexible person,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
The United Nations’ annual gathering of world leaders is taking place in the wake of the attack on Saudi oil facilities that Yemen-based Houthi rebels, locked in an ongoing war with Saudi Arabia and its allies for control of the country, say they carried out. The strikes hit the world’s largest oil processing plant and an oil field and sent global oil prices soaring. Iran has denied responsibility, but the Trump administration insists Iran is to blame.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday that Trump has always left the door open for a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, but said a meeting between the two world leaders is “highly unlikely given the current circumstances.”
Trump and his senior officials head to the UNGA this week focused on a narrow agenda that reflects domestic political concerns and the foreign policy challenge posed by Iran. While Trump and his administration have been openly skeptical of the value of international organizations and the UN in particular, this year they will be focused on lobbying the world community to join their push to bring Iran under control.
Mnuchin said Sunday that Iran “will be a major topic for the President” at the UN gathering.
Trump announced Friday he had applied new sanctions on two pillars of the Iranian economy, the country’s central bank and its sovereign wealth fund. The Pentagon announced the same day it would send additional troops along with enhanced air and missile defense systems to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Trump administration’s focus, the Treasury secretary said, is now on those who violate the Iran sanctions and issuing sanctions on third parties where they see violations. He told Tapper the maximum pressure campaign on Iran is working.
“We have cut off almost all the money to Iran,” Mnuchin said. “I think you see Iran acting in desperation, attacking its neighbors. This is really unprecedented in that sense.”
Earlier this month, prior to the most recent sanctions against Iran, Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Trump was willing to meet with Rouhani at the UN assembly, with “no pre-conditions.”
“I think you know we’ve done more sanctions on Iran than anybody. And it’s absolutely working. Now, the President has made clear he is happy to take a meeting with no pre-conditions, but we are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign,” Mnuchin said at the time.