Sputnik: So President Trump said yesterday in regard to the Iran nuclear deal that “we’ll see what happens, but we’re ready to make a real deal” – what is his idea of a ‘real deal’ do you think?
Steven Hurst: Well, based on what he’s said so far, his idea of a real deal would seem to involve the Iranians having no nuclear program of any kind whatsoever. Under the current agreement, they get to retain the peaceful parts of the nuclear program, the ability to enrich fuel and so on. I assume that Trump would require them to give that up as well.
Sputnik: And is that at all realistic?
Steven Hurst: No I don’t think so. It took the George W. Bush and Obama administrations twelve years to get the Iranians to give up what they did in the deal that they made in 2015, and that involved putting in place some very effective sanctions between 2010 and 2015 before that deal was done. I don’t see why the Iranians are likely to suddenly give up everything now after having fought so hard to keep it.
Steven Hurst: They are, yes. North Korea essentially has a single supreme leader whereas Iran has a much more complicated system with a lot more internal political competition and I really don’t know if simply the fact that Trump has done this once means that he’ll do it again; he’s not exactly a model of consistency. So everyone is clutching at straws with trying to guess what’s going on but I don’t think that the two regimes are comparable. I think the Iranian regime is more stable despite various problems and pressures. I don’t think they’re likely to crumble and be so ready to deal as Kim Jong-un has been.
Sputnik: Obviously we’ve seen an exchange of pretty hostile rhetoric between Trump as well as some of his senior officials on one hand, and the Iranian leadership on the other – do you use this slowly sliding toward open hostilities?
Steven Hurst: I don’t think anything can be ruled out. Certainly, what Rouhani said earlier in the week was fundamentally aimed at a domestic audience. It wasn’t really aimed at the United States at all; that was a secondary consideration. It was all about his positioning himself, he’s under a lot of pressure internally from hardliners and so it’s about him making the right kind of noises to position himself there. Trump equally, is just Trump being Trump, so I wouldn’t read too much into the rhetoric from either side.
But there’s certainly, nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a risk of conflict somewhere down the line. The Iranians aren’t going to simply fold, or it’s very unlikely that they’ll simply fold. Trump clearly has a profound animosity towards Iran based largely on the cultural atmosphere in the United States more than any kind of informed logic or evidence. But yeah, there is a danger that this thing gets out of hand if people aren’t careful. Because I don’t think the Iranians are going to surrender their nuclear program and if Trump just keeps pushing, pushing and pushing, then there is the risk of conflict somewhere down the line if he doesn’t realize that they aren’t simply going to roll over.
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