The title question may seem a bit odd since Donald Trump’s relationship with Iran appeared to be one of direct confrontation and demands for civilized behavior, with sanctions and other punishments awaiting any failure to deliver on such values. But according to one recent report, Trump never entirely gave up on finding a way to bring Iran to the table in a palatable fashion. As late as 2019, he was working on orchestrating some back-channel diplomacy to see if any ground could be gained, much as he did with North Korea from the beginning of his presidency. But was the swamp working to thwart his efforts? It’s being suggested that John Kerry, perhaps in cooperation with Joe Biden, was muddying the waters with Iran’s Foreign Minister, steering them away from any Trump outreach and urging them to wait until the Democrats were back in power when a more “flexible” administration might offer a better deal. (Washington Times)
President Trump in 2019 sought to open a back channel of communication with top Iranian officials and saw the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September as a potential opportunity to defuse escalating tension with Tehran, but the effort failed.
Two months earlier, however, a different back channel was thriving in New York. Iran’s smooth, English-speaking foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, met with Robert Malley, who was President Obama’s Middle East adviser, in an apparent bid to undermine the Trump team and lay the groundwork for post-Trump relations.
The attempt at counterdiplomacy offers a window into the deep relationships Mr. Zarif forged with influential U.S. liberals over the past decade. These relationships blossomed into what high-level national security and intelligence sources say allowed the Iranian regime to bypass Mr. Trump and work directly with Obama administration veterans that Tehran hoped would soon return to power in Washington.
It’s being reported that John Kerry met with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif while Trump was in office and he wasn’t the only one. Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz reportedly met with him too. Also on the list was Robert Malley, Barack Obama’s Middle East adviser. They wanted to talk to Zarif about the possibilities of “post-Trump relations” with Iran.
Most of the sources for this report are anonymous, so assign what credit you will to them as usual. But are these claims really all that hard to believe? Zarif is the Iranian frontman who is always put on camera for propaganda purposes because of his excellent English language skills and smooth delivery. He does the entire “who, us?” routine flawlessly and has cozied up to many Iran apologists in the United States, who are working to ease tensions between the two nations, no matter the cost.
And if you’re in charge of Iran, who are you more likely to want to do business with? The guy who demanded an end to your nuclear program or the buddies of the guy who literally sent you billions of dollars in cash on pallets? I don’t think you need to be a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist to fill in the blanks here.
Keep in mind that just this morning we were talking about Zarif and his demands for even fewer restrictions on his country’s nuclear development ambitions from the Biden administration and the United Nations. On the surface, such demands are typical of Iran. They always seek those objectives. But when you consider their total refusal to work with the Trump administration, with those demands coming barely a few weeks into Biden’s term in office, you do have to wonder.
Did John Kerry and his buddies help to torpedo Trump’s efforts to make some sort of progress with Iran, promising a smoother road once the old Obama team was back together and in charge? It certainly all seems to fit into the larger puzzle.
The problem is that during the Trump years, John Kerry was not an official spokesperson for the United States. He held no public office. And if he was undermining US relations with Iran in that fashion, that clearly would be illegal in some fashion. The argument that he was simply “chatting with friends as a private citizen” doesn’t hold water if he was actively making back-room deals to undermine the foreign policy of the current government. This really should be a matter for the Justice Department to look into, but with Biden in charge, that’s about as likely as finding hen’s teeth in your spare change jar.