(CNSNews.com) – President Emmanuel Macron’s surprise invitation to Iran’s controversial foreign minister to drop by the weekend G7 summit in France is hosting drew mixed reactions from observers, but former ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley did not hold back, accusing Macron of being “completely disrespectful” to President Trump and other G7 leaders.
“Iran supports terrorism at every turn and continues to pursue ‘Death to America,’” Haley tweeted. “Manipulative of Macron to do this and very insincere. #NotWhatFriendsDo”
Zarif’s unscheduled arrival in the coastal resort of Biarritz early Sunday reportedly took delegations by surprise. A French official told reporters Macron only informed Trump when the two had lunch on Saturday that the Iranian would be coming,
“If the French did in fact invite Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif to the G7 without consulting the US, it would be a signal of great weakness to Iran and terribly disrespectful to President Trump,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “Hope President Trump maintains steady resolve against Iranian aggression.”
Macron has been seeking to assert his leadership in a bid by France, Germany, and Britain, to keep the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran afloat despite Trump’s withdrawal last year.
Zarif, who was recently targeted for U.S. sanctions as part of a broad administration policy of “maximum pressure” aimed at changing the regime’s behavior, is not known to have met with any U.S. officials in Biarritz before flying out on Sunday night.
He did hold talks with Macron, however, and afterwards pointedly posted a photo on Twitter of the smiling Iranian and French delegations.
“Iran’s active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues,” commented Zarif, who frequently uses English-language tweets to challenge U.S. positions and highlight the warm diplomatic reception and often sympathetic media coverage he enjoys in many capitals despite Washington’s efforts.
Trita Parsi, founder and former president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which advocates engagement with the regime, responded to Haley’s tweet by wielding the “neocon” label.
“The neocons in Trump’s circle reveal their hand,” he tweeted. “They claim maximum pressure is aimed at getting a new round of negotiations. If that was true, they should’ve welcomed Macron inviting Zarif to [the G7 summit]. Instead, they're enraged. BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT TALKS. THEY WANT WAR.”
Asked on Sunday whether he supports Macron’s recent “outreach” to the Iranian regime, Trump seemed unperturbed, saying “sure,” but adding that he U.S. would “do our own outreach.”
“But, you know, I can’t stop people from talking,” he said. “If they want to talk, they can talk.”
Asked several hours later about Zarif’s presence and whether he planned to meet with the Iranians, however, Trump replied simply, “no comment.”
On Twitter at the weekend, Trump had nothing but praise for Macron and his hosting of the summit.
Two weeks ago, Trump expressed frustration with what he characterized as well-meaning but unhelpful attempts by Macron and others to bring about dialogue between Iran and the United States.
The Iranians, he tweeted, “want desperately to talk to the U.S., but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France.”
“I know Emmanuel means well, as do all others, but nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself,” Trump said. “No one is authorized in any way, shape, or form, to represent us!”
That tweet came shortly after a news report claiming that Macron had invited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to attend the G7 summit.
Despite the “moderate” tag some have ascribed to him, Zarif represents a regime long described by U.S. administrations as the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, and one that continues to incarcerate U.S. citizens or permanent residents, among them Baquer and Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang and Nizar Zakka. The former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran 12 years ago, remains unaccounted for.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has described both Zarif and Rouhani as “polished front men for the ayatollah’s international con-artistry,” and after the administration sanctions Zarif several weeks ago Pompeo called him supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “chief apologist.”