Former Secretary of State John Kerry should not try to undermine President Trump’s Iran strategy through his own outreach to the regime, a senior State Department official warned Thursday.
“I don’t have personal knowledge of those meetings, but, if that is happening, again, I would find it very inappropriate,” Manisha Singh, the assistant secretary of state for economic affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Kerry has confirmed in recent days that he has met “three or four times” with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif since leaving office. The two played lead roles in negotiating the 2015 nuclear agreement that President Trump decided to exit in May, but their subsequent conversations have drawn charges of shadow diplomacy from foreign policy critics.
“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 told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt. “You know, how does one resolve Yemen? What do you do to try to get peace in Syria? I mean, those are the things that really are preoccupying, because those are the impediments to people, to Iran’s ability to convince people that it’s ready to embrace something different.”
The revelation of Kerry’s meetings met with approval from one Democratic lawmaker on the panel, who welcomed the prospect of “shadow diplomacy” under the circumstances.
“Frankly, I’m not sure that it’s such a bad thing that other people are trying to represent our country considering the erratic nature of this administration,” said Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.
Hewitt asked if Kerry is “trying to coach [Iran] through” Trump’s exit from the Iran deal, but the former Democratic senator denied it.
“No, that’s not my job, and my coaching him would not, you know, that’s not how it works,” he said. “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.”
Singh emphasized that Trump’s team does not believe that the 2015 nuclear deal can help curb the regime’s regional aggression, much less their domestic human rights abuses. “We have a long list of things that we’re focused on and its unfortunate if people from a past administration would try to compromise the progress that we are trying to make in this administration,” she told the lawmakers.