It has been reported that former Secretary of State John Kerry met with several foreign leaders including Iranians in an attempt to salvage the nuclear deal with Iran. Some lawmakers are questioning the legality of these negotiations and whether they violate the Logan act.
The Boston Globe published a report on Friday claiming that Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif two weeks ago at the United Nations in New York City to discuss salvaging the Join Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA was an agreement concerning Iran’s nuclear program and was made with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus the European Union in 2013. This was reportedly the second meeting Zarif and Kerry had conducted in the past two months. Kerry also met last month with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at least once and French President Emmanuel Macron at least twice to discuss the subject. He discussed salvaging the Iranian deal with European Union Vice President Federica Mogherini by phone. Former energy secretary Ernest Moniz was reportedly aiding Kerry in garnering support among members of Congress. Moniz was a key figure in negotiating the technical details of the deal.
“It is unusual for a former secretary of state to engage in foreign policy like this, as an actual diplomat and quasi-negotiator,” Michael O’Hanlon, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution, told the Boston Globe. “Of course, former secretaries of state often remain quite engaged with foreign leaders, as they should, but it’s rarely so issue-specific, especially when they have just left office.”
Some see Kerry’s actions as more than “unusual”. In a tweet on Saturday, House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) implied Kerry’s negotiations may be illegal and open to prosecution.’
OMG! Logan Act violations!! Send in the G Men… https://t.co/FA1dydJGQb
— Devin Nunes (@DevinNunes) May 4, 2018
The Logan Act, enacted in 1799, criminalizes negotiation by unauthorized persons with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States. The intent behind the Act is to prevent unauthorized negotiations from undermining the government’s position.
Ironically, the Logan Act was almost invoked against 47 Republican Senators who sent a letter to the Iranian government in 2105 warning that the JCPOA will be revoked after President Obama leaves office. A petition asking President Obama to prosecute the Senators garnered over 300,000 signatures.
Only two people have ever been indicted on charges of violating the Act and neither was ever prosecuted.
If the report is true, Kerry’s efforts are in contravention of the policy of the current White House administration which is working at renegotiating the terms of the JCPOA. The deal must be recertified every 90 days and President Trump refused to certify the deal in October 2017. Though no sanctions were imposed, he stated in January that if the deal is not renegotiated by May 12, he will not recertify the deal and he will impose economic sanctions on Iran.
Last Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, had covertly acquired over 55,000 pages of documents and 55,000 files on CD showing that Iran had a nuclear weapons program. In order for the JCPOA to be signed, to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had to certify that Iran had never had a nuclear weapons program. The documents revealed by Netanyahu are conclusive proof that Iran lied to the IAEA and the JCPOA was based on this false certification.
Though this revelation would seem to question the validity of the original agreement and put a shadow over its future, in a tweeted response to Netanyahu Kerry explained that the Iranian deception over its nuclear weapons aspirations is proof of the worth of the JCPOA.
Every detail PM Netanyahu presented yesterday was every reason the world came together to apply years of sanctions and negotiate the Iran nuclear agreement – because the threat was real and had to be stopped. It’s working! That’s why Israeli security experts are speaking out. 1/4
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) May 1, 2018