Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed in recently leaked recording that former Secretary of State John Kerry informed him during former President Trump’s administration of over more than 200 Israeli military operations on Iranian interests in Syria.
According to leaked audio obtained by The New York Times, Zarif said Kerry, who is now President Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate, told him that Israel attacked Iranian assets in Syria “at least 200 times.” Zarif added that he was surprised that Kerry would reveal sensitive intel to him, since he was being kept in the dark about government negotiations and military operations by the Iran’s Supreme Leader.
“It was former US Foreign Secretary John Kerry who told me Israel had launched more than 200 attacks on Iranian forces in Syria,” Zarif said.
The remarks from Zarif were made to an ally in a conversation with an Iranian economist last month and wasn’t suppose to be released until President Hassan Rouhani left office in August. However, once the leaks of the three-hour taped conversation were made public, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh did not dispute the authenticity of the leaked recording, but questioned the motives behind the leak, calling it “unethical politics.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) who also chairs the Senate GOP campaign arm, said Biden should revoke Kerry’s access to all classified information while the matter is being looked into.
“Until we have clarity and know the truth, President Biden must remove John Kerry from all access to and briefings on national security intelligence,” Scott said in a statement. “If these allegations are true, he must resign. Above all, this clearly shows why the United States cannot for a second entertain re-entering the failed Iran Nuclear Deal.”
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) April 26, 2021
The episode comes as the Biden administration is trying to resurrect the nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement back in 2018. Republicans have uniformly opposed returning to the pact, criticizing the Biden Administration urgency to restore nuclear diplomacy and lift the harsh U.S. sanctions imposed on the hostile Iranian regime, many of which were re-imposed under Trump. Earlier this month, talks between the two nations through intermediaries have been taking place in Vienna to discuss the framework for a possible return of the Iran deal.
It is unclear what effect as of now the revelations will have on those continuing talks
In a Twitter post, Kerry denied claims of the detailed leaked audio obtained by several media outlets – “unequivocally false.”
“I can tell you that this story and these allegations are unequivocally false. This never happened — either when I was Secretary of State or since,” Kerry tweeted Monday evening.
If Zarif’s accounting is accurate, it would not be the first time that Kerry has reportedly kept in touch with the Iranian Foreign Minister. In February, The Washington Times reported that Zarif held shadow diplomacy with the Climate Czar and former members of the Obama Administration, including Biden’s special envoy for Iran policy, Robert Malley in order “to devise a political strategy to undermine the Trump administration” after the former president withdrew the U.S from the Obama-era Iran nuclear pact.
Zarif held meeting throughout the Trump years between 2017-2019 before the administration halted his visa in 2020 to lay down the groundwork in hopes Democrats would return to power in Washington in 2021. After Trump withdrew from the pact following reports surfacing of Kerry “shadow diplomacy,” with Zarif, the Iran foreign minister would then exploited his Democratic connection for Iran’s advantage that would also allow him to work around the Trump Administration.
Kerry admitted in a radio interview back in 2018 that he did met with Zarif “three or four times,” intending to find out “what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better” while vehemently denying claims that he “coached” the foreign minister in how to deal with the Trump administration.
“What I have done is tried to elicit from him what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better,” Kerry said in the interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt. “I’ve been very blunt to Foreign Minister Zarif, and told him look, you guys need to recognize that the world does not appreciate what’s happening with missiles, what’s happening with Hezbollah, what’s happening with Yemen. You’re supporting you know, an ongoing struggle there They say they’re prepared to negotiate and to resolve these issues. But the administration’s taken a very different tack.”
The former president in May 2019 slammed Kerry for his “shadow diplomacy,” and illegally violating the Logan Act, a law that restricts private American citizens from negotiating with a foreign government in dispute with America, and should be prosecuted for siding with hostile power over US interests
“You know, John Kerry speaks to them a lot. John Kerry tells them not to call. That’s a violation of the Logan Act, and frankly he should be prosecuted on that,” Trump told White House reporters in May 2019. “