According to Robin Wright at The New Yorker, Rand Paul had met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and offered a meeting at the White House with President Trump.
Paul proposed that the Iranian diplomat lay out the same ideas to Trump in person. The President, Paul said, had authorized him to extend an invitation to meet in the Oval Office as early as that week, the U.S., Iranian, and diplomatic sources told me.
Zarif had offered a number of suggestions on how to end the tensions between the two countries and address Trump’s concerns but that was unacceptable for the war party.
On July 31st, with no breakthrough on the horizon, the Trump Administration sanctioned Zarif for “reprehensible” behavior, for having links to the Revolutionary Guard (which, in April, was designated as a foreign terrorist organization), and for functioning “as a propaganda minister, not a foreign minister.”
Who made the decision to sanction Zarif when it looked like there might be a diplomatic breakthrough? It is unknown, but I would place the blame at Treasury. According to The Atlantic, at the Center of U.S. Iran policies is an Israel-born and hard-core Zionist Treasury official named Sigal Mandelker.
In the exchange of provocations and bellicose rhetoric between the United States and Iran, two hawkish top officials, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, may be the public faces of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic. But it’s Mandelker, and the office she oversees as the undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, doing much of the actual execution.
More on Mandelker at If Americans Knew Blog.
Robin Wright also reports that Lindsey Graham is involved in negotiations.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, is reportedly also working with the Administration on Iran, albeit on a different track. He was part of the group that played golf—and discussed Iran—with Trump on July 14th. Graham, who is more hawkish than Paul, has been consulting with allies on the framework of a wider deal, according to the Daily Beast. It would call on Tehran to accept the so-called 123 Agreement, which was outlined in legislation passed in 1954. It imposes nine safeguards on the use of nuclear material—to insure that it is not diverted to make a bomb—in exchange for U.S. coöperation on nuclear technology. The United States has 123 Agreements with forty-nine countries and Taiwan.
This is Graham’s view of diplomacy.
“I told the president: Put the 123 on the table with the Iranians. Make them say ‘no,’ Graham told the Daily Beast. “I think the Iranians will say no. And I think that will force the Europeans’ hands.”
The Iranians should call Graham’s bluff and say we are open to discuss this.