French president Emmanuel Macron invited Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, to Biarritz, France, where the G-7 summit is convened. Zarif reportedly met for several hours with Macron, his foreign minister, and diplomats from Great Britain and Germany.
Macron’s stunt didn’t just catch President Trump off guard. At least some leaders of other G-7 nations apparently weren’t told in advance about Zarif’s visit, either.
Macron disagrees with the Trump administration’s tough policies towards Iran, and that’s okay. He also wants to promote dialogue with the mullahs, and that’s okay too.
But Macron could have met with Zarif at any time. Why did he choose to so while Trump was in France?
Macron has been pushing Trump to soften, if not reverse, American policy towards Iran. He wants the U.S. to allow Iran to export a limited amount of oil. Reportedly, he also wants to broker talks between the Trump administration and the Iranian regime. Ultimately, he hopes to persuade Trump to accept a nuclear deal with Iran along the lines of President Obama’s deal.
But a meeting with Zarif under circumstances that embarrass Trump is not the way to accomplish any of these goals. All Macron has done is to further demonstrate to Trump that he is not an honest, good-faith broker.
Macron probably understands this. However, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to poke Trump in the eye.
By doing so, Macron doesn’t just satisfy his ego, which Trump has wounded. Trump is quite unpopular in France, so Macron probably thinks he can score a few needed points with the French electorate. Nor should we ever underestimate the desire of French leaders, and not just Macron, to appear relevant on the world stage.
France has lost its grandeur, but perhaps not its desire to seem grand. Macron, in any case, possesses that desire in spades. Zarif’s visit confirms that satisfying it means more to Macron than any particular policy objective.