French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s trip to Iran has seemingly failed to produce the results likely expected by President Emmanuel Macron.
Le Drian arrived in Iran on March 5 and met with President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani.
Amid the visit, hard-line daily Kayhan slammed the Rouhani administration for its “passivity” and for hosting the French foreign minister at this time. “We should consider politicians such as Le Drian and Macron as envoys of America instead of France. … Therefore, we should ask what new developments in the US-Iran relationship except hostility and not honoring commitments have occurred that the [Iranian] government [has decided to] roll out a red carpet for the envoy of the White House,” wrote Kayhan on March 6.
The daily added, “Shamkhani and Zarif took a positive and firm position in their meetings with Le Drian, but accepting his trip [to Iran] and receiving him in meetings is equivalent to giving legitimacy to the alleged concerns of the United States and Europe and paves the way for [their] audacity and next steps.”
“Le Drian had stated his position and goal publicly prior to his trip, and if [Rouhani’s] government doesn’t [intend to] negotiate over the missile [program] and the region, why should [they fundamentally] receive Le Drian,” argued Kayhan.
In his meeting with Zarif on March 5, Le Drian brought up Iran’s missile capabilities, a statement that led Zarif to say March 5, “Iran’s military capability is for defending the country and is a deterrent, and given the bitter experience of the imposed [1980-88 Iran-Iraq] war, Iran has learned to rely on its deterrence power for protecting its citizens.”
Moreover, Javan newspaper, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), wrote March 6 that Le Drian was surprised when he saw Shamkhani, who is a former defense minister and IRGC commander, in his military uniform. Of note, some have pointed out that Shamkhani does not appear to commonly dress up in military garb while engaged in diplomatic meetings.
Explaining the reason behind this action, Javan continued, “[He] wanted to convey the reality to the French foreign minister that the view of [Iranian] officials and people concerning national interests is the same and that the Islamic Republic is not willing to hand over its rights.”
Javan emphasized, “The Europeans have been affected by the psychological maneuvering of [US President Donald] Trump to pressure the Islamic Republic to hold talks for a complementary JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], and this issue led Shamkhani to tell the French foreign minister explicitly that ‘Europe’s policy of giving concessions to the US to keep it within the JCPOA is incorrect and means passivity and surrendering to the psychological games of Trump.’”
Meanwhile, Reformist Shargh newspaper argued March 6, “Paris is attempting to play a remarkable role in balancing the relations of Iran-US and Iran-Europe in the Middle East.”
The daily addressed French policy toward Tehran, saying that it aims to establish Paris as “a balancing point in the region and decrease Iran’s role in the Middle East and Iran’s missile program. … They [France] have repeatedly stated their position about Iran’s missiles and Iran’s role in the region and have faced Iran’s clear opposition.”
In an article published on the government-run Iran newspaper, former Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi wrote March 6, “Upon returning to his country, Mr. Le Drian will undoubtedly inform his European friends and the American colleagues of France of the results of his trip, and it is the French foreign minister’s responsibility to make his friends aware of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s clear views along with Iran’s interests, and persuade them that the option of giving concessions to the United States to save the JCPOA is a fruitless path whose success is unpredictable.”
Asefi continued that if Le Drian acknowledges that trying to appease Trump doesn’t work and instead plays an effective role in increasing foreign investment in Iran and solving the banking issues, then Tehran-Paris cooperation in the region — including in Lebanon and Syria — will enter a new phase.