It was a surprise that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, whom the U.S. decided to sanction, attended one of the side meetings of the G7 Summit held in Biarritz, France over the weekend. It's still a mystery whether Trump has been informed of Zarif's visit in advance. According to White House statements, the visit was a surprise for Trump as well.
French President Emmanuel Macron is said to have invited Zarif to Biarritz to ease tensions between Iran and the United States. According to Macron, Zarif's visit is the beginning for Iran to sit at the negotiation table with Trump. One of the dossiers of negotiation is Iran's intercontinental ballistic missile program. Iran has repeatedly stated that it will not negotiate ballistic missiles with the United States. Therefore, Iran also announced that Zarif will not meet with Trump at the G7 Summit.
First, let's recap. Trump had decided to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Agreement under pressure from the right wing of the Israeli lobby in the U.S. and the Neocon circles. Trump, who imposed new sanctions against Iran, asked European signatories of the agreement to withdraw and become part of the campaign for “maximum pressure” on Iran.
In 2015, the European Union supported the agreement signed by Germany and five permanent members of the UN Security Council. All signatories save for the United States opposed Trump's decision to withdraw because there was no evidence that Iran had violated the terms of the agreement. As Trump bullied companies doing business with Iran, the other signatories of the agreement are trying to implement a system in which the dollar is excluded. The parties, who met in Vienna last month, negotiated a new mechanism called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), which they established to bypass U.S. sanctions and to continue trading with Iran.
Just before the Vienna meeting, the U.S. and Israel were testing a joint missile defense system in Alaska. The anti-ballistic missile system "Arrow 3" was aimed at blocking Iran's long-range ballistic missiles, including nuclear warheads. According to media reports, Arrow 3, which has been in development for over a decade, successfully passed this test. Israel's U.S. Ambassador Ron Dermer, who secretly went to Alaska, was among those present during the missile test.
Another development that marked the G7 meeting in France was Iran’s decision to impose sanctions against the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and its CEO Mark Dubowitz. The FDD is known as a pro-Israeli think-tank, which has lobbied hard to get the U.S. to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Tehran accuses the FDD of being part of the "economic terror" campaign against Iran. The FDD and the Israel Lobby interpret Iranian sanctions as a clear threat.
Dubowitz reacted to Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif's welcome at the G7 summit in a tweet. Dubowitz also asked Trump and Macron to review Zarif's participation in the UN's annual summit in New York in September.
In fact, it is regarded as a controversial decision that the U.S. administration put Zarif, Iran's chief diplomat, on the sanctions list. Under normal circumstances, it is not possible to prevent the foreign minister of a member country from participating in the UN Summit. However, it is unclear what attitude Trump, who has been accused of not taking international diplomacy seriously, will adopt with regards to Zarif's participation in the UN Summit.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement signed in 2015 was seen as a historical compromise to ensure regional peace. With Trump's decision to withdraw, this agreement lies at the heart of the diplomatic crisis that has already dragged the troubled region to the brink of a potential war.