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John Kerry Rides to Iran’s Rescue
By Joseph Klein
Former Secretary of State John Kerry seems to have forgotten that he is now a private citizen. Kerry is still trying to keep alive by any means possible the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), that he helped create while serving as the Obama administration’s point of contact with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. According to a report in the Boston Globe, Kerry took it upon himself to engage in “shadow diplomacy” with his erstwhile negotiating partner about two weeks ago at the United Nations. This was the second time Kerry and Zarif met to strategize over how to keep the JCPOA intact regardless of President Trump’s possible decision to have the United States withdraw from the JCPOA or sidestep it as early as May 12th. Kerry has also reached out to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, European Union High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, and French President Emmanuel Macron, all of whom strongly support the JCPOA.
“It is unusual for a former secretary of state to engage in foreign policy like this, as an actual diplomat and quasi-negotiator,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution. It is more than “unusual.” It is illegal under the Logan Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from communicating with any foreign government or its officers, in the absence of authorization by the U.S. government, “with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.” Kerry’s secret interactions with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif fall squarely within this prohibition. Kerry intervened in a current dispute between the United States and Iran by sitting down to strategize with Zarif, who said just last Thursday – not long after the cozy Kerry-Zarif tête-à-tête at the UN – that Iran will not “renegotiate or add onto” the nuclear deal.
Whatever Kerry’s opinion may be about the JCPOA or his sadness at the prospect that his “legacy” accomplishment may soon come undone, Kerry has no more right to meet with Zarif in an effort to influence him or to intervene in a dispute between the present government of the United States and Iran than any other private citizen.
True, there have been no convictions under the Logan Act and only one indictment way back in 1803. No prosecution followed that indictment. However, the Logan Act appeared to come back to life when the Obama Justice Department, including former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates who was dismissed by President Trump for insubordination shortly after President Trump took office, used it against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The Obama Justice Department focused on Mr. Flynn’s discussions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about policy issues — sanctions against Russia and a United Nations Security Council resolution on Israel — while he was the National Security Adviser designate during the presidential transition.
The Obama administration attempted to use the Logan Act as a cudgel against the in-coming Trump administration. Yet, nothing in Flynn’s harmless communications with Russian officials during the transition period between Donald Trump’s election and the president-elect’s inauguration comes anywhere close to what Kerry has done. Kerry is actively seeking to undermine the foreign policy of the duly elected current president of the United States vis a vis Iran during Kerry’s clandestine meetings with his former negotiating partner, Zarif. Kerry has intervened on Iran’s side in a dispute between the current Trump administration and the Iranian regime over terms of the JCPOA, the regime’s bad faith misrepresentations and actions relating to the deal, the regime’s ballistic missile program, Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, and any sanctions that the Trump administration may choose to re-impose. The double standard in the application of the rule of law is glaring.
Indeed, Kerry’s attempts to leverage his collaborative relationship with Zarif in a clandestine manner against any plans by the current U.S. president to re-impose sanctions against Iran with enough bite to scuttle Kerry’s precious nuclear deal go beyond just violating the Logan Act. While in office, and now as a private citizen, Kerry has been helping an enemy regime that has American blood on its hands. This regime has taken Americans hostage, and continues to hold American citizens as political prisoners. It is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and has threatened the United States and its ally Israel. In short, Kerry continues to give “aid and comfort” to an enemy of the United States, which falls within the Constitution’s definition of treason.
Kerry began this treacherous course with Iran while serving as Obama’s Secretary of State. Both men sought to placate the Iranian regime, whose leaders have regularly incited their followers to scream “Death to America,” at the expense of the security of the American people. Kerry formed a strong bond with Zarif, which he is seeking to maintain after leaving office in order to save the disastrous deal that they had negotiated together.
As Secretary of State, Kerry met with Zarif bilaterally at least 23 times while negotiating the JCPOA. They laughed and smiled after every meeting, according to Kerry himself. After announcing that a final agreement had been reached on July 14, 2015, Kerry praised his Iranian negotiating counterpart in glowing terms, calling him “a tough capable negotiator, patriot, a man who fought every inch of the way for things he believes.”
Zarif is a “patriot” of his regime, an enemy of the United States and the free world. Kerry is anything but a patriot of the United States. And while Zarif “fought every inch of the way for things he believes,” Kerry believed only in securing a deal no matter what he had to give away to accomplish his goal. He provided the Iranian regime exactly what it wanted – immediate relief from economic sanctions and a huge cash infusion upfront in return for temporary suspension of the elements of its nuclear program that it had already mastered. In short, Kerry and his boss Obama sold the security of the United States and its allies for a mess of loophole ridden “commitments.”
For example, a month before the final deal was announced, Kerry backed off from pressing a critical U.S. demand. No longer would Iran be required to account in detail for its suspected past efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. “We are not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another,” Kerry said in June 2015.
We now know about the extent of Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, which it still harbors. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent revelation of many thousands of Iranian documents that Israel’s intelligence agents obtained from a secret “atomic archive” in Tehran exposes Iran’s web of lies. The trove of secret nuclear weapons files came from a hidden Iranian site where they were moved in 2017. In the first paragraph of the JCPOA’s preface, the Iranian regime “reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons development of nuclear weapons.” Iran repeated this “commitment” in subsection (iii) of the JCPOA’s “Preamble and General Provisions.” If Iran were true to its word, why didn’t the Iranian regime immediately destroy its “atomic archive” documents rather than hide them away for future use? Kerry was willing to let bygones be bygones, rather than confront the truth of Iran’s real nefarious intentions.
One of the elements of nuclear weapons-related work, which is documented in the seized archives and is likely continuing today, involves integrating nuclear warheads on missiles. The Obama administration negotiators, led by Kerry, agreed to Iran’s demand that its ballistic missile program remain outside of the JCPOA’s nuclear-related restrictions. By recklessly agreeing to this demand, Kerry and his merry band of appeasers effectively gave the Iranian regime a green light to work on developing ballistic missile technology, including the perfection of technology to integrate nuclear warheads on missiles. The Obama administration figured that a weak provision in the UN Security Council resolution endorsing the JCPOA, which called on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” would suffice. It doesn’t. This resolution replaced unambiguous prohibitions on ballistic missile activity, contained in prior UN Security Council resolutions, with an unenforceable call to behave. This last-minute Obama administration concession, which Iran had demanded in return for agreeing to the JCPOA, made the situation worse than it was before the JCPOA. Iran is openly flouting the Security Council’s call to stop its nuclear-related missile program.
Kerry has continued to defend the missile concession since leaving office. Last February, for example, Kerry claimed that it was not a concession at all, but rather an example of the Obama administration’s “strategic thinking.” More accurately, it was an example of the Obama administration’s dangerous thinking. Kerry also bizarrely claimed that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s exposure of Iran’s lies proved that the JCPOA was “working.”
It’s certainly Kerry’s right to make a fool of himself defending his disastrous nuclear deal in op-ed articles, appearances on cable TV, speeches or tweets. However, Kerry is betraying his country when he continues to collaborate with Iran’s foreign minister or any other Iranian regime officials against the current foreign policy of the United States vis-a-vis the enemy Iranian regime.