On Monday, Iranian media confirmed reports that their Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, met with former US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss salvaging the Iran nuclear deal while the Iranians intentionally snubbed the current US President Donald Trump.
“During the trip (to New York), a meeting was held (between Zarif) with Kerry, although you know that at present, Kerry doesn’t hold any government post,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi was quoted as saying in the semi-official Fars news agency, emphasizing that “during the trip no talks and meeting was held with the US officials”.
This Iranian omission of any mentioning of the current White House administration from the diplomatic process was intentional.
“We don’t see the US just as Mr. Trump,” Quassemi explained to Fars. “The United States is not just the current ruling administration, and there are many figures who have different views on international and regional issues.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday said his country prefers the current version of the deal even if it means the US under Trump decides to withdraw.
“If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal,” he said on state television on Monday. “What Iran wants is our interests to be guaranteed by its non-American signatories . . . In that case, getting rid of America’s mischievous presence will be fine for Iran.”
The report of Kerry’s meetings first appeared in the Boston Globe on Friday. According to the report, Kerry met with Zarif twice over the last two months. In addition, Kerry met with numerous other foreign leaders and members of the US Congress in an effort to salvage the nuclear deal with Iran.
President Trump has set a May 12 deadline for the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany to revise the terms of the agreement in a manner that has more safeguards to ensure and verify that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapons program.
President Trump expressed his anger at Kerry’s actions via Twitter.
The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal. He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2018
The president’s reference to the possible illegality of Kerry’s negotiations is based upon the Logan Act that was enacted in 1799, which made it a criminal offense for unauthorized persons to negotiate policy with foreign governments that are in disputes with the United States. Apropos to the current situation involving Kerry, the Logan Act was intended to prevent unauthorized negotiations from undermining the government’s negotiating position.
Kerry’s actions are in contravention of the policy of the current White House administration and are clearly affecting the White House negotiations. Only two people have ever been indicted on charges of violating the act and neither was ever prosecuted.
Several lawmakers, including Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Congressman Devin Nunes (R-California) who is chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, also expressed outrage at Kerry’s actions, suggesting they may have indeed violated the Logan Act.
Kerry has negotiated with foreign powers before in this legally dubious manner. After his military service in Vietnam ended, Kerry and other anti-war activists met with representatives of North Vietnam in Paris during the 1970’s. This was at a time when North Vietnam was at war with the US.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated in a press conference on Monday that she does not believe Kerry’s actions will affect the effort to restructure the nuclear deal.
“I don’t think it impacts it at all. The President spoke out about that pretty clearly, and I don’t think that we would take advice from somebody who created what the President sees to be one of the worst deals ever made,” Sanders said. “I’m not sure why we would start listening to him now.”
The need for revised terms was underscored last Monday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister revealed that the Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence agency, covertly acquired over 55,000 pages of documents and 55,000 files on CD showing that Iran had an active nuclear weapons program.
In order for the Iran deal to have been signed, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) needed to certify that Iran never had a nuclear weapons program. The documents revealed by Netanyahu show conclusive proof that Iran in fact lied to the IAEA and that the Iran deal was therefore, signed based on this false certification.