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Chances of “historic photo op” of Trump with Iranians creep up as US president reportedly considers backing French credit relief for Iran

US President Donald Trump has left the impression with foreign officials, members of his administration, and others involved in Iranian negotiations that he is actively considering a French plan to extend a $15bn credit line to Iran if Tehran comes back into compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal, the Daily Beast wrote on September 12.

The deal drafted by France would compensate Iran for oil sales disrupted by American sanctions, which in May were toughened up with a new “maximum pressure” move that seeks to use secondary sanctions on buyers of Iranian oil to drive all crude from Iran off world markets. The credit line would in fact be guaranteed by Iranian oil. In exchange for the cash, Iran would have to come back into compliance with the nuclear deal it signed with the world’s major powers in 2015. Tehran would also have to agree not to threaten the security of the Persian Gulf or to impede maritime navigation in the area, while, lastly, Tehran would have to commit to regional Middle East talks in the future, according to the news outlet’s report. 

At the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France in late August, Trump told reporters that Iran might need a “short-term letter of credit or loan” that could “get them over a very rough patch”. Iran has been thrown back into recession as the US attempts to wreck its economy with a sanctions-led campaign designed to force big concessions on Iran’s role in the Middle East and nuclear and ballistic missile development programmes.

Trump has remained open to the idea of talks with no pre-conditions with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, but Tehran maintains it would at the most consider multilateral talks with the US and only if Washington drops all sanctions that contravene the nuclear accord, which the US unilaterally walked out of in May last year.

This may be proving a frustration to Trump. The Daily Beast report added that his “flirtations with—if not outright enthusiasm toward—chummily sitting down with foreign dictators and America’s geopolitical foes are largely driven by his desire for historic photo ops and to be seen as the dealmaker-in-chief. It’s a desire so strong that it can motivate him to upturn years of his own administration’s policymaking and messaging”.

One obstacle to Trump relenting on sanctions imposed on Iran may have been removed earlier this week with the departure of ultra-hawk and national security advisor John Bolton from the Trump administration. Bolton partly built his career on showing an uncompromising attitude to the Islamic Republic. He reportedly vociferously opposed the French credit line proposal.