What does U.S. President Donald Trump want from Iran? According to his most recent statements, his chief concern is Iran’s nuclear weapons program. In a recent interview, he declared that if Iran’s leaders abandon their nuclear ambitions — ambitions they insist they do not have — he is prepared to do business with them. Yet the position of his administration is that the Tehran government must change its behavior across virtually the entire range of its foreign policies — and Trump withdrew from the multilateral agreement to cap that program supposedly because it was too narrowly focused on the nuclear issue and ignored other forms of Iranian misbehavior.
This confusion is troubling, but it is becoming dangerous as American and Iranian forces exchange blows. Tensions are rising between the two countries and de-escalation is difficult if not impossible when each side’s objectives are unclear. Washington and Tehran need to be talking to each other, sending clear messages and leaving nothing to chance or interpretation.