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ELKHART, Ind. — Two days after withdrawing from a nuclear deal with Iran, President Donald Trump said Thursday that he wants to pursue a new accord with Tehran that is better for the U.S. and “better for them.”
“I hope to be able to make a deal with them, a good deal, a fair deal — a good deal for them, better for them,” Trump said at a campaign rally. “But we cannot allow them to have nuclear weapons. We must be able to go to a site and check that site. We have to be able to go into their military bases to see whether or not they’re cheating.”
The emphasis on the possibility of reaching a new agreement with Iran comes as critics — including former President Barack Obama — have noted that Trump’s decision to restore sanctions on Iran could hurt his chances of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
His remarks on a way forward with Iran could send two signals to Pyongyang in advance of a historic June 12 Singapore summit between the U.S. president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un: that he’s not totally abandoning the idea of a peaceful resolution with Tehran — and that he’ll use all of his leverage in negotiating with North Korea.
Trump has argued that Obama gave up too much to Iran at a time when crippling sanctions gave the U.S. the most leverage in negotiations. He suggested those sanctions, which he is reimposing, are the predicate for forcing Iran into new talks that will benefit both countries.
“Who knows?” he said of the possibility of a new deal with Tehran, “because we’re putting the harshest, strongest, most stringent sanctions on Iran.”
Trump told a capacity crowd here, at a middle school gym in a county he won with 63 percent of the vote, that nuclear and non-nuclear wars result from “weakness.”
His peace-through-strength approach to foreign policy is working, he said.
“We are unlocking new opportunities for prosperity and for peace,” he said. “America is being respected again.”
Though he visited a variety of topics during an hour-long speech — from border security to the economy — Trump’s main goal was bringing together Indiana Republicans after a divisive Senate primary that resulted in businessman Mike Braun’s nomination. To do so, he brought Vice President Mike Pence, a former governor and House member from Indiana, with him.
Both men ripped the incumbent, Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, for voting against their priorities, and Trump nicknamed the senator “Sleepin’ Joe.”
“This November, Indiana will face an important choice: you can send a really incredible swamp person back to the Senate like Joe Donnelly or you can send us Republicans like Mike Braun to drain the swamp,” Trump said, asking voters here to “give me some reinforcements.”
Donnelly’s camp responded quickly, pointing out that he has voted with Trump more than 60 percent of the time since January 2017.
“It’s okay that the president and Vice President are here today for politics,” Donnelly said in a statement. “But problems only get solved when you roll up your sleeves and put in the hard work.”
But as Trump touted his international negotiating skills, there was at least one ominous sign for his ability to bring tranquility to the Indiana Republican Party.
He and Pence both praised Rep. Todd Rokita, a vanquished Braun primary rival who attended the rally. But they had nothing to say about the other — and absent — defeated Republican, Rep. Luke Messer.