Zarif told Paul that the decision to meet Trump in the Oval Office was not his to make; he would have to consult with Tehran. He expressed concern that any meeting might end up as little more than a photo op, without substance, the sources told me. Last December, when I interviewed Zarif at the Doha Forum, he said that Tehran wanted more than just a photograph and a two-page document from any future talks—a reference to the limited outcome of Trump’s first summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in Singapore last year. “We don’t just do a talk for a photo opportunity and a two-page document,” he said. “We have a hundred-and-fifty-page document,” a reference to the detailed nuclear accord that Trump abandoned.
After his meeting with Paul, Zarif relayed the overture to Iran’s leaders. They did not approve a meeting—at this time. Rouhani is due to attend the U.N. General Assembly next month.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, is reportedly also working with the Administration on Iran, albeit on a different track.