A huge development that could roll back fast escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran in the Persian Gulf: Politico reports that Sen. Rand Paul — the outspoken anti-interventionist Libertarian Republican from Kentucky — has been handpicked by President Trump as his emissary to mediate with Iran after the Kentucky senator proposed the idea.
Trump has now reportedly signed off on the plan, first pitched over the past weekend by Paul at a golf outing as a way to avoid escalating toward military conflict with Iran, according to multiple US officials.
It's as yet unclear just how far along the plan is, or if a potential meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has actually been agreed to, but Sen. Paul would seek to ease tensions while providing a White House exit away from the two bad options of direct conflict or continued "tanker wars" which could sink global oil markets.
Politico reported the following details on Wednesday:
Over a round of golf this past weekend, Sen. Rand Paul asked President Donald Trump’s blessing for a sensitive diplomatic mission.
Paul proposed sitting down with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to extend a fresh olive branch on the president’s behalf, according to four U.S. officials. The aim: to reduce tensions between the two countries. Trump signed off on the idea.
Like his father Ron Paul, the junior Paul has over the past years been outspoken in favor of drawing down US troops world-wide and ending "regime change wars". He's been a consistent critic since the start of his political career on everything from Afghan policy to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, to US covert efforts to overthrow Assad.
For now, it seems the market is viewing this positively as oil prices are re-plunging on the apparent de-escalation (though this will likely frustrate OPEC).
Also likely frustrated is the 'deep state', no doubt already riled over Trump's choice to represent the White House at the table with Zarif. As Politico reported further:
Paul has long been at odds with the team of hawks serving at the top echelons of the Trump administration, including National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. At the outset of the administration, he led a public campaign against the administration’s current special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, when his name was floated as a candidate for deputy secretary of state — and helped to scuttle his candidacy by bashing his hawkish views in an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, according to a source directly familiar with the events.
Currently FM Zarif is in New York, on a restricted US visa that only allows him to travel withing blocks on the UN headquarters, for United Nations meetings and sit-down interviews with journalists.