There has been much speculation in the Iranian media about Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s visit to Germany this week. While Zarif has already met with a number of his counterparts from various countries and international institutions it was the question of whether he might meet with his U.S. counterpart on the sidelines of the Munich security conference that captivated much of the Iranian media’s coverage. Many outlets speculated that a potential meeting between Zarif and U.S. Secretary Rex Tillerson might be a sign that Tehran and Washington are interested in keeping diplomatic lines of communication that were put in place during the Obama administration open going forward.
Comment: Whether Zarif and Tillerson will meet on the sidelines of the Munich conference remains to be seen, but few places would have been more appropriate for such an encounter than Germany. This comes as the government of President Hassan Rouhani continues to view Germany as its key European economic partner and potential interlocutor to the United States. The Iranians are particularly fond of former Foreign Minister , who will become Germany’s president on March 18. While the presidency in Germany is mostly a ceremonial role, the long list of congratulatory messages from Tehran to Steinmeier on his election is indicative of high Iranian hopes that the German social democratic politician and others on the German left can be a buffer against future American pressure on Iran. Steinmeier is reported by Iranian media to remain a staunch defender of the nuclear deal that Iran signed with world powers in 2015.