The Irish Times view on the G7 summit: bringing Iran and the US to the table

A meeting between Donald Trump and Hassan Rouhani would be a coup for Emmanuel Macron and an important step in defusing tensions

Speaking at the G7 summit US President Donald Trump has said that he wants to see a strong Iran and was not seeking a change of leadership in Tehran, adding that the standard of living for ordinary Iranians was unacceptable. Video: Reuters

Donald Trump's self-imposed isolation at last year's G7 summit in Quebec, a gathering he sabotaged by disowning the final communiqué and tweet-bashing the host, Justin Trudeau, prompted some diplomats to refer wearily to the G6. Bitter memories of that occasion meant expectations were low going into the weekend's G7 summit in Biarritz. French president Emmanuel Macron abandoned the tradition of the communiqué so as to avoid putting the group's differences on display, while the leaders, conscious of Trump's thin skin, were careful to coat their disagreements with the US in a thick layer of the flattery towards its president.

True to type, Trump frequently appeared bored and disengaged in Biarritz. He skipped the Monday morning discussion on climate change, regularly waded in on domestic US politics and tweeted far-right conspiracy theories during his free time. He cut an isolated figure on a range of key issues, from tariffs to Russia. Iran remains another point of separation between the seven states around the table, but there were tentative signs that the groundwork was being laid for a breakthrough in the dangerous standoff between Washington and Tehran.

By inviting Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Biarritz, Macron sent an important signal of solidarity to Tehran while underlining his own determination to repair the damage done by Trump’s decision to break with the 2015 nuclear deal and Iran’s subsequent moves to partially halt its implementation of its own commitments. He had clearly prepared the ground with Trump, who declined to meet Zarif but said he would not stand in the way of Macron’s efforts to seek common ground for a new deal.

At a press conference on Monday, Macron said he hoped a meeting would take place between Trump and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in the coming weeks – a timeline Trump agreed was realistic. That would be a significant coup for Macron and an important step in defusing tensions. It was also notable that Trump explicitly stated that the US was not seeking regime change in Iran, since many believe that two of his closest advisers, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, seek precisely that outcome.


The 2015 nuclear deal was succeeding in containing Iran’s nuclear programme. Trump’s opposition to it has always appeared driven purely by a desire to disown anything regarded as an Obama-era achievement. His demands for any new deal – that it have a longer life-span that 2030, the term of the current agreement, and that it include ballistic missiles – will not be easily met. But for now, as Macron said, the aim is to “put an end to escalation” and begin to restore trust. If the Biarritz G7 turns out to have been the point where that rapprochement began, it will have been a signal achievement.