U.S. Treasury Secretary Declares:
WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- The United States is still pursuing its campaign of "maximum pressure" against Iran, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday, even after President Donald Trump parted ways with his national security adviser John Bolton.
Mnuchin, in an interview with CNBC, also said that there is no current plan for Trump to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month, although he reiterated that Trump is open to meeting with Rouhani with no preconditions.
Trump's remaining national security team is "executing on a maximum pressure strategy against Iran," Mnuchin said.
"There's no question it's working," added Mnuchin, whose department plays a key role in carrying out U.S. policy toward Iran through the imposition of economic sanctions.
Iran, which had singled out Bolton for criticism for his hawkish views, has denounced as "economic terrorism" the increasingly strict U.S. sanctions imposed after Trump last year pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers including the United States.
Mnuchin claimed sanctions against Iran have been effective and could help pressure Iran and its officials to negotiate with Trump.
"We have cut off their money, and that's the reason why, if they do come back to the negotiation table, they're coming back," Mnuchin said, adding that the U.S. strategy toward Iran is similar to the one the Republican president is taking toward trade talks with China.
"If the president can get the right deal that he's talked about, we'll negotiate with Iran. If not, we'll continue the maximum pressure campaign," Mnuchin added.
Trump later claimed he believed that Iran's officials wanted to talk. "I can tell you that Iran wants to meet," he told reporters at the White House.
Trump has repeatedly indicated he is ready to meet with Rouhani, who is expected to attend the UN General Assembly in New York this month. However, such a decision is a prerogative of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei who has banned any talks with Washington.
On Wednesday, Rouhani blasted the Trump administration, which has poured pressure on Iran, saying "the Americans must understand that bellicosity and warmongering don't work in their favor. Both... must be abandoned."
Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions.
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments to the accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Bolton's departure came just days after Iran announced it had fired up centrifuges to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles in another step back from the deal.
Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Rouhani, hailed Bolton's dismissal as "a clear sign of the defeat of America's maximum pressure strategy."
Yet even with Bolton gone, top Trump officials have shown no signs of backing down from the strategy of sanctions against Iran.