In a free republic with an impartial judicial system, this sort of behavior would get Kerry and Malley prosecuted, disgraced, forced to resign. As it is, they will retire comfortable and laden with honors.
by Ben Wolfgang and Guy Taylor, Washington Times, February 21, 2021:
President Trump in 2019 sought to open a back channel of communication with top Iranian officials and saw the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September as a potential opportunity to defuse escalating tension with Tehran, but the effort failed.
Two months earlier, however, a different back channel was thriving in New York. Iran’s smooth, English-speaking foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, met with Robert Malley, who was President Obama’s Middle East adviser, in an apparent bid to undermine the Trump team and lay the groundwork for post-Trump relations.
The attempt at counterdiplomacy offers a window into the deep relationships Mr. Zarif forged with influential U.S. liberals over the past decade. These relationships blossomed into what high-level national security and intelligence sources say allowed the Iranian regime to bypass Mr. Trump and work directly with Obama administration veterans that Tehran hoped would soon return to power in Washington.
One of those was former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who met with Mr. Zarif during the Trump years. So did Obama-era Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. They, along with Mr. Malley, were top U.S. negotiators of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As part of the deal, Tehran promised to limit its nuclear enrichment activities in exchange for economic sanctions relief and access to tens of billions of dollars in frozen bank accounts.
Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the pact in 2018. He cited the need for a much tougher agreement that also addressed Iran’s support for terrorist groups and its destabilizing behavior in the Middle East.
Mr. Kerry and Mr. Malley are now in the Biden administration, Mr. Kerry as a climate adviser and Mr. Malley poised to play a major role in U.S.-Iranian relations from his perch as special envoy for Iran policy at the State Department.
But Mr. Zarif’s power extends far beyond the negotiating table. Numerous sources have told The Washington Times that he wields tremendous influence over a tightly knit group inside the U.S. that has long advocated for Washington to take a more accommodating tack toward Iran.
The sources, including several from the U.S. intelligence community who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described a “web” of activity tied to prominent think tanks across the United States, as well as lobbying efforts that reached directly into the White House during the Obama years.
It’s an informal union of Iran apologists and pro-diplomacy advocates that helps amplify Mr. Zarif’s talking points, giving the Iranian Foreign Ministry influence over public opinion in the United States and considerable sway in left-leaning political and social circles.
One former U.S. official described Mr. Zarif as “the bat signal” for a network that encompasses left-leaning university professors, think tank analysts and other corners of civil society calling for a less-confrontational relationship with the regime in Tehran.
“He’s the signal for an echo chamber internationally that has been established over time,” the former official said….
Mr. Kerry has publicly acknowledged meeting with Mr. Zarif at least twice during the early years of the Trump administration.
In 2018, the former senator from Massachusetts told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he intended to find out “what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better” and said there was nothing secret about his meetings with Mr. Zarif. He vehemently denied claims that he “coached” Mr. Zarif about how to deal with the Trump administration.
The Associated Press, meanwhile, reported that Mr. Zarif met with Mr. Moniz earlier in 2018 and with Iran deal negotiator Wendy Sherman on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference that same year. Ms. Sherman has been nominated to serve as deputy secretary of state in the Biden administration.
Most of the meetings with Mr. Zarif took place before Mr. Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018. That timing is important because it means the U.S. and Iran were still official diplomatic partners.
But Mr. Malley and Mr. Zarif met in 2019, after the JCPOA withdrawal, meaning the dynamic between Washington and Tehran had changed drastically. Sources said it’s likely that Mr. Malley urged Iranian officials to wait out the Trump presidency with the expectation that a Democratic administration in 2021 would restore Obama-era policy….
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