They came not to negotiate, but to demand. The United Nations General Assembly brought together, in the same city at least, the American and Iranian presidents—neither of whom as of today had made so much as a feint toward a handshake. But each came with their list of grievances.
And each had a tough sell to make. The Iranian demands are clear: Iran wants sanctions relief before its leaders will even talk to the Americans. The United States’ list of demands keeps getting longer as Iran steps up its nuclear activities and provocations in the Gulf. Neither country is likely to get much closer to satisfied at the UN meetings this week.
The U.S. position is much more complicated—though U.S. officials continue to insist they want only for Iran to act like a normal nation. There are demands for Iran to stop missile testing and uranium enrichment, get back into compliance with the nuclear deal that Trump left and Iran has gradually begun abrogating, stop its regional meddling, and release American prisoners held in Iran, among other things. (Or maybe not: This summer Trump said “My deal is nuclear,” seeming to reduce his own goals to a single issue, notwithstanding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s detailed list of 12 demands Iran would need to meet for sanctions relief and normal relations with the United States.) During General Assembly week specifically, Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, made a few more demands of European allies—an extension of the UN arms embargo on Iran set to expire in the fall of 2020, and new European sanctions.