The G7 summit is a gathering of Western rulers where decisions about how to manage the world’s affairs to benefit the West are made. Last year’s summit in Canada ended in disarray when US President Donald Trump walked out in a huff. A year, however, is a long time in politics. At this year’s summit in Biarritz, France, Trump was put in his place: he is not the master of the world.
This was most clearly demonstrated by the surprise arrival of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the G7 meeting at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump was informed once Dr. Zarif was there, a fact Trump had to meekly accept. It also reflected the strategic rift between the EU and US. This is not only the result of Trump’s reckless and simplistic policies but also due to Iran’s calculated and bold moves.
Dr. Zarif brought some proposals relating to the nuclear deal. The G7 leaders held detailed discussions about them. Then they updated the Iranian foreign minister “in order to keep closing the gap… on the conditions with which we could de-escalate the tensions and create breathing space for negotiations,” according to a spokesperson of the French presidency.
The Europeans held discussions with Iran by keeping the US at bay. This indicates that EU leaders are beginning to realize they must go it alone. This is a major blow to the US. It does not mean that Washington will cease to have influence over the EU’s interactions with Islamic Iran, but Washington will no longer be able to dictate.
There is need to focus on the future of the nuclear deal after Zarif’s visit. Continuation of the nuclear treaty provides Iran and the EU with political space. Both sides wish to capitalize on it. At the moment, this benefits all sides. The Europeans can “legitimately” pretend they don’t want to destroy the only functioning Islamic governing system and Iran can pretend that its nuclear agreement means the possibility of a wider regional settlement with NATO powers. This situation is unlikely to change until the next US presidential elections. Trump has got the US into a diplomatic trap; he cannot go back to the original deal without losing face. Thus, it seems likely the Europeans will keep the nuclear deal alive by offering limited economic concessions to Iran.
The Europeans’ primary concern is what happens if Trump is re-elected, a possibility that cannot be dismissed. If re-elected, Trump’s second term will be a lot more reckless. An egotistical maniac and an ignoramus to boot, in charge of a powerful country with no plan for strategic issues means a powder keg waiting to explode.
The EU’s workable agreements will also face sabotage by US puppets in the Arabian Peninsula. The autocratic regimes in the Persian Gulf do not realize how strongly the American public dislikes Trump and most importantly the US governing institutions; they have placed all their eggs in one basket. Controlling the illegitimate Gulf regimes is not a problem in the long run but they can still do tactical damage, mainly by escalating tensions in the region through their proxies and indulging in vile sectarian propaganda. The erratic policies of the Persian Gulf potentates can be effectively contained by Tehran and Ankara forming a practical working relationship. This is already taking place but both Turkey and Iran need to focus more on issues they agree on rather than some of their differences. This procedure of alliance building also needs to be backed by bold political moves against US-backed autocracies in the Persian Gulf.
Iran will continue to be a major regional player without whose consent the EU cannot develop constructive policies in the Muslim East. The Europeans are interested in maintaining the deal for their own long-term political and economic goals in the Muslim East. Tehran fully realizes this and will assess every step of contact with the EU through a long-term prism. It appears that the EU has met its match in the Muslim East, a chess player whose sights are fixed on long-term goals.
It is also interesting to note that while Dr. Zarif is under US sanctions, he arrived at the G7 meeting and Trump could not do a damn thing about it.