Trump Leaves Iran Diplomacy Door Open After Macron’s Zarif Gambit

U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to leave a window open for diplomacy with Iran on Monday after French President Emmanuel Macron flew in Iran’s foreign minister to a G7 summit in an effort to reduce U.S.-Iranian tensions.

European leaders have struggled to tamp down the brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled Washington out of world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.

But Macron has spent the summer trying to create conditions for a period of pause to bring the two sides backs to the negotiating table.

Those efforts took a surprise turn on Sunday when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is under U.S. sanctions, flew to the French seaside town of Biarritz where the Group of Seven leaders were meeting.

Zarif held talks with Macron and British and German officials before returning home. Though potentially a diplomatic minefield, Macron’s gamble with Zarif appears to have worked out for now, as Trump on Monday endorsed the French president’s initiative and toned down his usual harsh rhetoric on Tehran.

While Trump reaffirmed Washington’s goal of extracting farther-reaching security concessions from Iran, he told reporters at the summit he wanted to see “a really good Iran, really strong, we’re not looking for regime change.

“I knew (Zarif) was coming in and I respected the fact that he was coming in. We’re looking to make Iran rich again, let them be rich, let them do well, if they want,” Trump said.

The 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers, reached when Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama was in office, aimed to curb Iran’s disputed uranium enrichment program in exchange for the lifting of many international sanctions on Tehran.

Since ditching the deal last year, Trump has pursued a policy of “maximum pressure” to try to force Iran into broader talks to restrict Iran’s ballistic missile program and end its support for proxy forces around the Middle East as well.

While Trump’s European allies also want fresh negotiations with Iran, they believe the nuclear deal must be upheld to help ward off the risk of wider war in the Middle East. Macron had already met Zarif in Paris on Friday ahead of the G7.

“What we want is very simple. It’s got to be non-nuclear (as well),” Trump said. “We’re going to talk about ballistic missiles…, about the timing. But they (Iran) have to stop terrorism. I think they are going to change, I really do.”

He said that he had not wanted to meet Zarif himself, because it was too soon.

The Iranian leadership also appeared upbeat. “Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying,” Zarif said in a tweet.

“Those who imagine one hand is enough are mistaken. We have to use our military, cultural and economic power as well as political power, diplomacy and negotiation,” President Hassan Rouhani said on his official website.

OBSTACLES AHEAD

Beyond the symbolism of Zarif coming and Trump appearing to endorse the step, it is unclear whether real progress was made.

In response to the tougher U.S. sanctions and what it says is the failure of European powers party to the deal – France, Britain and Germany – to compensate it for revenues lost to U.S. sanctions, Iran has responded by retreating from some of its commitments to limit its nuclear activity.

It has given the Europeans until Sept. 5 to come up solutions before scaling back those commitments further.

Macron wants to either create a compensation mechanism for Iran or convince Trump to ease some of the U.S. oil sanctions.

In return for any concessions he would expect Tehran to return to full compliance with the nuclear deal and engage in negotiations covering its ballistic missiles, regional influence and its nuclear activity after 2025, when the deal expires.

Highlighting the difficulties, two Iranian officials and one diplomat told Reuters on Sunday that Tehran wants to export a minimum of 700,000 barrels per day of its oil and ideally up to 1.5 million bpd if the West seeks to negotiate with Tehran to save the nuclear deal.

One of the Iranian officials also reiterated Tehran’s stance that the ballistic missile program is non-negotiable.

The United States has made no indication that it will ease any of its sanctions. A European diplomat familiar with the G7 discussions said the leaders had not persuaded Trump to budge.

“In sum, the French offers and Iranian demands have frankly shifted little over the past four months,” said Eurasia Group Iran analyst Henry Rome. “Meanwhile, we’re 11 days away from Iran’s expected new nuclear escalation.”

(Additional reporting by Marine Pennetier, Michel Rose and Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Responses

  1. “No I didn’t read your extensive blathering.” Cherl

    Nothing to see here.

  2. ”What would you do about an Islamic nation who obviously supports terrorists and commits acts of terror themselves and then turn around and say not us.” William Conley

    Look, the Middle East is a complicated business. The US tried to deal with one aspect of the mess by tying them to an agreement that would keep their nuclear development in control. It was working. All co-signees agreed that it was working AS INTENDED!

    Then this idiot president comes along saying this and that nonsense and pulls out of the agreement freeing the Iranians to cause trouble. They held themselves in check for a few months while King Donald The Loser continued to agitate them.

    This is the action of a madman who has been given bad advice and likely is being propped up by some very dangerous advisors, such as the ones that I mentioned.

    You can disagree with me, if you like, but keep up. Our King blew a stable situation up for no real reason. He just didn’t like the deal and gave no reason as to why (likely because of who signed it) and what HIS goals were for replacing it. For all intents and purposes, all he wanted was just chaos.

    Did the agreement deal with Iran’s support for terrorism? No, it was NOT designed to do that. That is no excuse for blowing up a working agreement that was keeping a dangerous regime in control.

    The agreement ALSO was not designed to keep the more dangerous Saudi regime from stopping supporting THEIR greater support of terrorism, including Al Qaeda. If the King had proposed and gotten an additional terrorism agreement to control the Saudis (and/or Iran), then the world would be in a much better place. But he didn’t.

    1. You need help. Talk about a conspiracy theorist! Just another wannabe important person and just can’t make the grade. So here you are where still no one listens. No I didn’t read your extensive blathering.

  3. There is no peaceful resolution to Iran they are Islamic to a fault their way is the only way or they will kill you on any horrible fashion they can conceive. They don’t even want to abide by any rules we set they just want our money and to sell their only resource worth anything oil aka basically the only reason the middle East hasn’t been bombed into a crater of sand melted into glass from the heat of the explosions. They don’t want their women to have a voice let alone an opinion they openly imprison and kill homosexuals and women who show their face and hair. Why the hell would we want to let these people just keep going on with business as usual in exchange for oil? Is that how our honor and respect for human rights and life works give us enough oil and we’ll turn a blind eye to your draconian society?

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