Over the weekend, Emmanuel Macron surprised some attendees at the G-7 summit in Biarritz by informing them that the French government intended to invite Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for talks aimed at moving towards a resolution to the standoff between Tehran and West.
Macron has spearheaded efforts to deescalate tensions at a time when US sanctions are crippling the Iranian economy, prompting Tehran to respond with provocative actions in the Strait of Hormuz. The maritime escalations, combined with the downing of drones and shrill rhetoric from the White House, have brought the US and Iran to the brink of war.
The European powers are keen to see cooler heads prevail, hence Macron’s invitation to Zarif.
At the post-G-7 press conference, Macron suggested he would try to set up a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who, back in June, called the Trump administration’s decision to sanction Zarif evidence of “mental retardation”.
The US president responded to that slight on Twitter, as he’s wont to do. “Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement only shows that they do not understand reality”, said Trump, world-renowned expert on not understanding reality.
Through it all, Trump has generally insisted he’d be willing to meet with the Iranians, though. As we saw with Kim Jong-Un, no amount of acrimony is sufficient to override Trump’s affinity for photo ops.
Ever the publicity hound, and never one to miss a chance to demonstrate his “legendary” negotiating skills, Trump on Monday said he would “certainly” agree to meet Rouhani “if the circumstances were right”.
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He then qualified his pseudo-invitation. “But in the meantime, they have to be good players”, Trump sighed. “And they can’t do what they’ve been saying they’re going to do, because if they do that they’re going to be met with very violent force”, he continued.
Trump, standing right next to Macron, went on to say that “I really think some of the countries who went into the original [Iran nuclear] deal are agreeing more and more with what I did”.
The president can “really think” whatever he wants, but there is no evidence at all – not a single, solitary soundbite – to suggest that any of the parties to the Iran accord now support Trump’s decision to unilaterally scrap it.
Trump also took the opportunity to tell one of his favorite stories – the one about the “plane loads of cash” that Obama delivered to the Iranians.
That plays well with the base – and Fox News anchors love it.