President Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that he would be open to meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later this month when world leaders gather in New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

Trump said he would be willing to talk to Iranian leaders if they seek such a meeting.

“Whether they want to talk or not, that’s up to them, not up to me,” Trump told reporters after a meeting with the Emir of Kuwait. “I will always be available. But it doesn’t matter one way or the other. We’ll see what happens.”

Trump seemed to argue that his administration has helped to destabilize and weaken Iran’s regime.

“Iran is a very much different place from when I first took office,” he said. “Iran is in turmoil right now. They’re in total turmoil. When I took office, it was just a question of how long until they took over the entire Middle East. Now they are just worrying about their own survival as a country.”

Iran has seen a spike in civil unrest in recent weeks, with demonstrators protesting the sputtering economy and water shortages, according to various media reports. And its economy is in a free fall, according to The Associated Press, which reported Wednesday that Iran’s rial fell to a record low and that Tehran residents lined up outside beleaguered moneychangers to swap their currency for dollars. Exchange shops that remained open offered 150,000 rials to the U.S. dollar.

The president’s remarks on Wednesday came amid escalating attacks on Iran leveled by top Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who denounced Iran’s leaders as a corrupt and mafia-like cabal in a blistering July 22 speech.

On Tuesday, Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, said Trump would chair a Security Council meeting on Iran during the U.N. gathering in late September.

Haley said Trump would use that session to highlight Iran’s “violations of international law” and the “general instability” that Iran sows across the Middle East.

Tensions between the two countries have been on the rise since May, when Trump announced the United States would withdraw from a landmark 2015 multilateral agreement seeking to block Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The Trump administration has re-imposed some sanctions that were halted as part of that agreement, which was crafted by the Obama administration, along with France, Germany, the European Union, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia. Another round of U.S. sanctions is scheduled to hit Iran in November.

Rouhani, a moderate in a theocracy ruled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has lashed out against Trump for threatening to reimpose the economic sanctions, for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and for banning travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim-majority countries.

Trump has previously suggested that Iran’s poor economy and other difficulties would prompt Iranian leaders “to call me and say ‘Let’s make a deal.'”

But Iran has so far rejected talks. And Trump and Rouhani engaged in a fierce public exchange in July that raised concerns of a military confrontation.

Rouhani said on July 22 that “American(s) must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” He cautioned Trump to stop “playing with the lion’s tail or else you will regret it.”

Source » usatoday