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The U.S. administration has been "deliberately provoking" Iran in order to destroy the nuclear arrangement and impose its own objectives, the former British ambassador to Iran told CNBC Tuesday.
Speaking to CNBC's "Street Signs Europe," Richard Dalton said objectives laid out by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo required Iran to "surrender all its national interests in the Middle East" and to "change the nature of its regime."
"It's an intolerable proposition to put to Iran and it's not surprising, and the United States will have calculated this long ago when they took the steps that they have taken, that Iran should have retaliated in accordance with its long-term policy, which is that if the Persian Gulf can't be used freely by everyone to export oil, then why should anybody export oil in security from that area?" Dalton said.
A State Department spokesperson said in response that the administration wants Iran to behave like a "normal nation."
"The president made clear he was ready to talk without preconditions when the circumstances are right," the spokesperson said. "The United States is seeking a deal with Iran that comprehensively addresses the regime's destabilizing behavior — not just its nuclear program but also its missile program, support for terrorist proxies, and malign regional behavior."
President Donald Trump on Monday struck a softer tone on Iran, assuring that the White House was not looking for regime change and suggesting that a new Iran deal could be struck quickly.
Trump also said he would agree to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani "if the circumstances were right."
Washington wants a fresh agreement which would place indefinite curbs on Iran's nuclear program and halt its development of ballistic missiles, requests Tehran has thus far rejected.
In July, Iran confirmed it was exceeding its internationally agreed stockpile limit of low-enriched uranium, breaching a key tenet of the 2015 nuclear deal that Trump's administration abandoned last year.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated against the backdrop of an Iranian economy buckling under the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, which had previously been waived under the Obama-era deal in exchange for restrictions on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
During the Group of Seven (G-7) summit of world leaders in Biarritz, France over the weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron invited Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a bid to continue diplomatic talks. This comes after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Zarif last month.
Dalton said Macron's invitation to Zarif was a logical step to "reverse the cycle of deterioration in the prospects for security in the Persion Gulf region, and in the prospects for survival of this vital international agreement (the Iran nuclear deal)."
However, he suggested that European leaders have "very little leverage" in efforts to influence either Iran or the U.S., and would instead be seeking to find any area of mutual interest that would convince Iran to cease its challenge to the nuclear agreement.
"Iran waited a year before responding to the totally unjustified United States rejection and withdrawal from the deal, Dalton said.
"They have started to escalate pressure, and that pressure is against U.S. interests and it's also against European interests, so it's right to use diplomacy to try and restore the status quo ante, to get the United States to make a concession which enables Iran in turn to return to its full implementation of the nuclear agreement."