Iran may be willing to negotiate new restrictions on its ballistic missile program, according to a new report.
Iranian officials reportedly floated a negotiation on new restrictions at the U.N. General Assembly in September, when President Trump signaled a strong desire to declare the regime out of compliance with an international nuclear deal. The proposal is an apparent effort to undercut the case for such an announcement, as the administration has cited the ballistic missile program repeatedly as cause for alarm.
"The dispute over the missile program also can be resolved through talks," an Iranian diplomat told Reuters. "[We might] "negotiate some dimensions of it, like limiting production of some missiles with specific ranges."
But there is skepticism in U.S. national security circles about Iran's willingness to make meaningful concessions on the ballistic missile program. "They would completely have a total political breakdown if they got rid of the missiles, and whatever they promise they won't fulfill it," one Middle East expert who has advised the Trump administration told the Washington Examiner in September. "But you can mitigate the problem by changing their operational behavior."
The leak from Iranian officials follows reports that Trump intends to declare that the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is not in the vital national security interests of the United States. But Trump won't immediately re-impose economic sanctions waived as part of the Iran deal; instead, Iran hawks on Capitol Hill hope to use the threat of sanctions to force revisions of the deal.
"What the president should do at that point is outline the parameters of new legislation that he would like to see . . . to fix some of the problems with the JCPOA, while also making it clear to Tehran, and to Europe and Asia, that the sword of Damocles of complete economic sanctions hangs over Iran's regime to be implemented at any moment by him unilaterally," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told the Washington Examiner in a recent interview.
Democrats have argued that Trump should try to make changes to the deal without declaring the regime non-compliant. "The maximum point of leverage to address Iran's nefarious activities is now, before his expected terrible decision," a senior Senate Democratic aide told reporters Thursday. "Not after, when he undermines America's credibility to uphold its commitments with our allies and partners."
But administration allies doubt the credibility of the offer. "It's a transparent ploy to avoid decertification, but shows that pressure has an effect," an Iran expert close to the White House countered.