Trump Scolds France’s Macron for Giving Iran ‘Mixed Signals’ Over Talks with US

By Patrick Goodenough | August 9, 2019 | 4:32am EDT
French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. in New York last September. (Photo by Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

( – President Trump on Thursday chided French President Emmanuel Macron for, in his words, giving “mixed signals” to the Iranian regime regarding the possibility of talks between Tehran and the United States.

Trump tweeted that Iran – the target of the administration’s policy of “maximum pressure” following its exit last year from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal – was “in serious financial trouble” and keen to negotiate.

“They 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,” he said.

“I know Emmanuel means well, as do all others, but nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself,” the president added. “No one is authorized in any way, shape, or form, to represent us!”

Trump did not say what prompted the tweets, but early this week the news website Al Monitor posted a report citing anonymous sources as saying that during a July 30 phone conversation Macron had invited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to attend a G7 summit Macron is soon to host.

Trump is scheduled to take part in the August 24 gathering in the Atlantic coastal resort of Biarritz, and the report said Macron had promised his Iranian counterpart that “many issues between Tehran and Washington beyond the JCPOA would be solved.”

Al Monitor added that Rouhani had declined the invitation.

Both the Iranian and French presidencies confirmed the July 30 phone conversation had taken place, but on Wednesday Reuters quoted an unnamed French diplomat as denying that Macron during that call had invited Rouhani to the G7 summit.

Macron recently embarked on a drive to try to salvage the JCPOA, which is on the ropes due to ramped-up U.S. sanctions and steps Iran has taken to water down its compliance with the 2015 agreement.

The French leader sent a senior envoy to Tehran last month, and has himself spoken to Rouhani several times by phone, most recently on Tuesday night, according to Rouhani’s office.

It said they discussed the nuclear deal, as well as tensions in the Persian Gulf. (The U.S. and Britain have agreed to provide security to commercial shipping in the crucial waterway, facing threats by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which recently seized a British-flagged tanker. France and Germany have declined to join the initiative.)

Rouhani’s office quoted him as telling Macron, “Unfortunately, despite Iran and France’s efforts to ease tensions in the region, we are witnessing provocative actions by the Americans.”

‘Chief apologist’

Last week the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, shortly after he had traveled to the U.N. in New York, on a visit where his movements were restricted by the U.S. government.

The high-profile, English-fluent diplomat is frequently interviewed by U.S. television networks and is feted in some circles as a “moderate.”

It’s a view not shared by the Trump administration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech last year called both Zarif and Rouhani “polished front men for the ayatollah’s international con-artistry,” and when announcing the sanctions last week he called Zarif supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “chief apologist.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Pompeo said the objectives of the campaign of pressure on the Iranian regime was, firstly, to “deprive it of the money it needs to support its destabilizing activities,” and secondly, to force Khamenei “to the negotiating table to conclude a comprehensive and enduring deal.”

“As we raise the cost of Iran’s expansionism and the status quo, we seek a comprehensive deal and a far more peaceful, stable relationship,” Pompeo said. “We look forward to the day we can help bring the Iranian people and their neighbors the peace and prosperity they deserve.”

Rouhani said the same day that if the U.S. is sincere about wanting to hold talks, it should first lift all sanctions against Iran.

Khamenei himself has, on several occasions, ruled out any talks with the U.S.


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