One-time vice presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman said on Sept. 16 that it was a mistake for former Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with Iran’s foreign minister about the Iran nuclear deal.
Kerry told radio host Hugh Hewitt in an interview on Sept. 12 that he’s met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif “three or four times” in places like Norway and Germany since he left office in 2016.
“America has only one secretary of state at a given time, one president, and they have a right, as a result of their election, to conduct our foreign policy,” Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-independent who represented Connecticut in the Senate, told Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures” host Maria Bartiromo. “We’ve got Iran on the ropes now, and a meeting between John Kerry and the Iranian foreign minister really sends a message to them that somebody in America who’s important may be trying to revive them, and let them wait and be stronger against what the administration is trying to do.”
The Trump administration decided in May to pull out of the Iran deal, which had given Iran relief from sanctions, in exchange for making changes to its uranium enrichment program to deter it from developing nuclear weapons. Trump said the deal was ineffective in preventing Iran from building up a nuclear arsenal, pointing to certain restrictions in it that were set to expire after several years, weak inspections of the state’s facilities, and several breaches in the agreement by Iran.
Kerry, who helped broker that deal, denied that he was giving advice to the Iranians on how to deal with the Trump administration’s rejection of it, saying that he was instead talking to Zarif about the dynamics in the Middle East.
His “shadow diplomacy” was first reported in the United States by The Boston Globe, which cited an anonymous source with knowledge of Kerry’s meetings, as saying he had met twice with Zarif at the United Nations since leaving office. Their conversations, according to the source, revolved around preserving the Iran deal. Zarif has said as much to the Iranian press.
Kerry is working with some of his former advisers at the State Department to influence public opinion on the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The group, called Diplomacy Works, says on its website it provides “information and analysis that empowers policymakers and stakeholders to make the case for upholding the JCPOA as a model of effective foreign policy with diplomacy.”
Instead of trying to rally Democrats to the cause, they are working on foreign leaders because they are more likely to get Trump’s attention, according to one of the members.
“Maybe Macron, Merkel, and Great Britain can persuade the administration, but if they can’t they’ll be even more essential to protecting the deal absent the United States. We know these voices are powerful. They have an audience with the president and our allies are popular at home,” David Wade, a longtime Kerry adviser and adviser to Diplomacy Works, told The Globe.
Pompeo Slams Kerry Over Meetings
When asked about his predecessor’s meetings with Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he wouldn’t comment on the legality of what Kerry was doing, but called his meetings “unseemly and unprecedented.”
“This is a former secretary of state engaged with the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and according to him … He was telling them to wait out this administration,” Pompeo told reporters on Sept. 14. “It’s inconsistent with what foreign policy of the United States is, as directed by this president, and it is beyond inappropriate for him to be engaged in this.”
He said he saw Kerry at the Munich Security Conference in February with his “troika,” including former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and lead Iran-deal negotiator, Wendy Sherman, and said he believed they met with their “troika counterparts” at the conference.
“I wasn’t in the meeting, but I am reasonably confident that he was not there in support of U.S. policy with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran, who this week fired Katyusha rockets toward the United States embassy in Baghdad and took action against our consulate in Basra, [Iraq],” Pompeo said.
The day before Pompeo’s remarks, President Donald Trump accused Kerry of having “illegal” meetings with the Iranian regime and suggested he should be registered with the U.S. government as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people. He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2018
Lieberman, who doesn’t support the Iran deal, said he wasn’t sure if what Kerry was doing was illegal, but said he does find it very concerning.
“The only way I would say he should meet with any world leader today is if he was authorized by the current administration, and I would have said that if Condi Rice wanted to meet with somebody when Barack Obama was president,” he said.