The United States and Iran are set to put forward their competing visions of security in the Middle East to the United Nations General Assembly this week, with US President Donald Trump expected to address the gathering of world leaders on Tuesday, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani the following day.
Even as tensions continue to summer in the Middle East, following the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil fields and the exchange of sharp rhetoric between Washington and Tehran, the two leaders are holding out hope for diplomacy, with Trump says he is "a very flexible person" and Rouhani extends a "hand of friendship and brotherhood" towards his regional neighbors.
On Sunday, Trump once again left open the possibility of an unscheduled meeting with Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Zarif: Saudi and UAE want to 'fight Iran to the last American'
"Nothing is ever off the table, completely, but I have no intention of meeting with Iran and that doesn't mean it doesn't happen, "Trump said." I'm a very flexible person, but we have no intention. It's not set up. "
When asked if there would be any discussions between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or another American representative with the Iranian delegation at the UN General Assembly, a high-ranking American official said there was" nothing planned . "
But CNN's Christiane Amanpour tweeted that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told her in an interview that Rouhani was willing to meet Trump in New York this week" provided that President Trump is ready to do what's necessary "by exchanging sanctions relief for "Permanent monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities."
"The olive branch has always been on the table, but we're showing it again," Zarif added, according to Amanpour's tweet.
In a televised speech earlier on Sunday marking the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, Rouhani said that Iran was extending a "hand of friendship and brotherhood" to neighboring countries to secure the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz – a vi number of gateway for the global oil industry.
But the Iranian president also warned foreign forces to "stay away" from the region.
"Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region," Rouhani said
"Risks of miscalculation"
Meanwhile, in an interview with US broadcaster ABC on Sunday, Pompeo, the top US diplomat, said Washington wants to give diplomacy "every opportunity to succeed."
Pompeo puts aside threats of US military retaliation against Iran, saying Trump's administration is "taking this in a serious way and we are working diligently to see that this has a diplomacy c outcome. "
" But make no mistake about it, if we're unsuccessful in that and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives. " The United States has accused Tehran of carrying out the air attacks that set off Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq plant and the Khurais oil field on September 14, knocking out half the kingdom's oil production.
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warns of "all-out war"
Pompeo called it "one of the largest attacks on global energy supply in history."
But despite initial warnings by Trump that US forces were "locked and loaded," the US president quickly softened his rhetoric, brushing off Republican hawks who warned that the absence of a forceful response would be read as weakness in Tehran.
Trump has so far ordered stepped up sanctions against Iran, and a relatively modest deployment of US troops to the Gulf, prim arily focused on defensive missions like air and missile defense.
On Fox News, Pompeo said the administration was "deeply aware of the risks" of a miscalculation given the situation in the region.
"That's why we want to resolve this in a way that does not resort to kinetic action if it is at all possible to achieve that, "he said.
" Political suicide "
The threat of outright war is likely to make all sides cautious.  "I doubt anyone has the appetite for a direct clash between the US and Iran," said Barbara A. Leaf, who was US ambassador to the UAE from 2014-2018 and is now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Trump says he would "certainly like to avoid" war with Iran
"It really requires re-establishing deterrence. Clearly there is none now. "
Meanwhile, Mohammad Eslami, a former editor-in-chief of Iran's Khorasan diplomatic magazine, said he doubts that Trump and Rouhani would meet in New York.
" President Trump is not reliable in the way Rouhani thinks about diplomacy, "Eslami told Al Jazeera, adding that the US president is only interested in showing off that he is doing something about Iran before the 2020 elections.
Eslami also said that Trump meeting would be" political Suicide for any Iranian official. "
" The cultural factor and the history of Iran-US relations are the main contexts when we are writing about diplomacy. Trump does not respect Iranian heritage and Iranian culture, "he said.