Sen. Rand Paul as Envoy to Iran for President Trump?
July 18, 2019 (EIRNS)—Politico put out a much-cited story yesterday that President Donald Trump had accepted Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s proposal that he, Paul, meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “to extend a fresh olive branch on the President’s behalf.” The proposal was reportedly made to Trump while the two were golfing together over the weekend with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Politico claimed four unnamed U.S. officials as its sources. One Trump Administration official “familiar with Iran issues,” when contacted by Politico about the proposed backchannel, reportedly responded: “He’s given up on all of us!”
In non-denials: President Trump today denied he had “appointed” Paul as any kind of envoy, while praising the Senator as “somebody I have a very good relationship with,” and continuing, “I respect Senator Paul and if he had some ideas I would listen.” Zarif, for his part, told reporters in New York City today only that he is “seeing people from Congress,” and if he were to see Paul, it would only be as “a respected representative,” not as an emissary.
Paul’s only report on his weekend golf discussions came in a Monday tweet replying to a Lindsey Graham tweet on the golf discussions:
“Proud that Donald Trump and I argued with you against endless wars! @POTUS made it clear to all of us at the table, we are getting out of the Middle East quagmire. We’ve been there too long. Time to bring our troops home.”
Paul has been outspoken in recent weeks on the urgency of not driving Iran into a corner which leaves them with only two choices: to capitulate completely or go to war. Specifically, he has proposed that sanctions be waived on Iranian oil sales to the East (China, India, etc.), because the Iranians view the zero-sales sanctions as nothing short of an embargo. Paul also argues that a ballistic missile control agreement with Iran is needed, but that it would have been better to push negotiations on that from within the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), rather than outside it.