In a possible appeal to Donald Trump, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that Israel and Saudi Arabia deceived Trump into withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Speaking at a national conference on insurance and development in Tehran, Rouhani appeared to be setting the conditions for a personal phone call which would reopen US-Iran talks.

Rouhani said the “greatest trick ever played” on Trump was the Israeli-Saudi deception telling the US President that the Islamic Republic could be overthrown.

That led to the US departure in May 2018 from the agreement between Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia). The Trump Administration then imposed comprehensive sanctions in November 2018, slashing Iran’s official oil exports between 80% and 95% and further squeezing an economy with long-term structural problems.

Rouhani said discussions were possible if the Administration fully removed sanctions. To support his message, he spoke in detail about a phone call from Barack Obama in September 2013, as Rouhani was leaving New York after a UN General Assembly meeting.

At the last minute…the President of the United States contacted me at the hotel and I answered his phone call and it took about 20 minutes, which was a very powerful locomotive for the negotiation train….

We outlined the framework of the negotiations. The US President raised three issues for negotiation. I said that we were not ready for negotiation on those issues, but if the first issue, which was the nuclear issue, would work well, then the second and third issues can be on the agenda.”

Rouhani did not identify the second and third issues, but said Obama’s call led to an interim agreement in “less than 100 days”.

That accord, between Iran and the 5+1 in November 2013, temporarily eased some US sanctions, including the unfreezing of Iranian assets in US banks by $700 million per month.

Rouhani alleged that Saudi Arabia and Israel tried to block the final agreement, which was reached in July 2015.

However, he claimed that a Saudi-Israeli plot led to the world oil price falling “from $104 [per barrel] to around $50 and at some stages to under $30”, trying to break the Iranian economy.

The President asserted, in defiance of Iran’s current economic situation and recent mass protests, “Despite what the enemies of the Iranian nation thought, our country’s economic growth rate increased.”