In April of this year, all seemed to be on course for the people who wanted the Trump administration to aggressively confront Iran. But even as the president was doubling down on his withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Weapons Agreement by officially designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization and promising tougher economic sanctions down the road, a nightmare haunted the backers of regime change in Tehran.
“The worst fear of Bolton and Pompeo,” a senior State Department official told our guest Karim Sadjadpour, Iran specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “is that the Ayatollah [Khamenei] writes Trump a letter, suggesting a get together. They know the president would jump at such an opportunity.”
Surprise! French President Macron made that bad dream come a lot closer to true, enlisting, not the Ayatollah but his foreign minister, and prime minister in a scheme to put Donald Trump in a room with at least one of them.
In a made-for-live-coverage event, Macron invited Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif to fly in and out of the G-7 meeting in Biarritz, leaving behind a troop of world leaders applauding the French president’s diplomatic choreography, and hoping Bolton and Pompeo’s nightmare really is fulfilled in a Trump-Rouhani or Khamenei pas de deux.
As Angela Merkel put it from the G-7 Amen Corner, “What will come out of this, what possibilities will open up, we can’t say today. But the firm will to talk is already great progress.”
Of course, “the firm will to talk” is to a successful negotiation as a bird-whistle is to a symphony.
Karim Sadjadpour is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he focuses on Iran and U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East. He is a regular contributor to the Atlantic, and has also written for Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, the Economist, and the Washington Post. He is a frequent guest on the PBS NewsHour, NPR, Charlie Rose, and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, and has also been on the Colbert Report, the Today Show, and NPR’s Fresh Air.
Sadjadpour regularly advises senior U.S., European, and Asian officials and has testified numerous times before the U.S. Congress. He has lived in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East (including both Iran and the Arab world) and speaks Persian, Italian, Spanish, and proficient Arabic. He is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, teaching a class on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East.