I don’t mind that French president Emmanuel Macron met with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif last month, although it did bother me that the meeting occurred while the G-7 summit was in progress and President Trump was still in France. But what really aggravates me is the warm reception Zarif received in Europe from various public figures.
Mina Bai of the Gatestone Institute has the details. In Sweden:
After meeting with Swedish authorities, Zarif attended a seminar at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), whose governing board is chaired by a former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ambassador Jan Eliasson.
The seminar opened with a speech, followed by questions from the audience. Not only did Eliasson, who introduced Zarif at the podium, warmly embrace the Iranian foreign minister, he also behaved rudely to a Kurdish journalist who confronted Zarif by recounting the story of his imprisonment and torture in Iran — for the “crime” of being a reporter.
Meanwhile, says Bai, outside the Swedish parliament peaceful protesters against the Iranian regime were harassed and beaten by police.
Anniken Huifedlt — a Labor Party member and chair of the parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense — gave Zarif a heartfelt greeting, hands clasped to her chest. Ironically, Huifedlt is one of Norway’s most prominent feminists, who later would not comment to the press on Zarif’s refusal to shake her hand. Perhaps she was unaware that the Iranian regime forbids handshakes between men and women.
Meanwhile, demonstrators, including Bai, who waited for Zarif in front of the prime minister’s office were forced by the police to stand behind barricades a block away, so that Zarif would not see them.
I’ve already mentioned France. There, the media outlet France 24, which conducted an exclusive interview with Zarif, respectfully declined to press him about human rights, or the lack thereof, in Iran.
Why did European big shots treat Zarif not just like the representative of a normal country (which he certainly isn’t), but with warmth? One explanation is economic. Bai points out that the Strait of Hormuz, where tensions have run high, is vital to the transport of petroleum to Europe, and that, more generally, trade with Iran is important to many European countries.
But Bai also sees an ideological component. She finds that “the ideology of some European public figures overlaps with that of the Iranian regime.” She cites Jeremy Corbyn.
I agree with Bai. This looks like a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Here, Israel and the U.S. (at least under its present leadership) are the enemies that make Iran the friend of important European players.