FILE – In this Jan. 15, 2017 file photo, U. S Secretary of state John Kerry speaks with the media after attending the middle east peace conference in Paris. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo discharged Friday, Sept. 14, 2018 and are Obama-era predecessor, John Kerry, for “actively undermining” the US policy on Iran by the assembly a few times recently with the Iranian minister of foreign affairs, which was his main interlocutor in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool, File)
WASHINGTON – Secretary of state Mike Pompeo has unloaded on his Obama-era predecessor, John Kerry, for “actively undermining” the US policy on Iran by the assembly a few times recently with the Iranian minister of foreign affairs, which was his main interlocutor in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations.
In unusually blunt and harsh language, Pompeo said Friday that Kerry’s meetings with Mohammad Javad Zarif were “unseemly and unprecedented” and “inappropriate.” President Donald Trump had late Thursday accused Kerry of holding “illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, that can only serve to undercut our great work at the expense of the American people.”
Pompeo said that he would leave “legal provisions for” others”, but beat Kerry as former secretary of state for the dialogue with ‘the world’s greatest state-sponsor of terror” and telling Iran to “wait on this government.” He noted that just this week iran-backed militias had fired rockets on the US diplomatic compounds in Iraq.
“Can you not find precedent in AMERICAN history, and Secretary Kerry must not to engage in that kind of behavior,” an excited Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “It is not consistent with what the foreign policy of the United States is directed by this president, and it is inappropriate for him to be involved.”
Kerry, who is promoting his new book “Every Day is Extra,” tweeted a reaction to Trump, who referred to the president of the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who agreed Friday to cooperate with the special counsel investigation in Russia of interference in the 2016 presidential elections and the possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
“Mr. President, you should be more worried about Paul Manafort meeting with Robert Mueller than me meeting with Iran’s FM. But if you want to learn something about the nuclear agreement that the world is safer, the purchase of my new book,” said Kerry.
He is very critical of the president and his decision in May to withdraw from the Iran deal, but denies “coaching” in Tehran.
In a statement, his spokesman, Matt Summers, said: “There is nothing unusual, let alone improper, or unsuitable, about former diplomats meeting with foreign colleagues. Secretary (Henry) Kissinger has done it for decades with Russia and China. What is inappropriate and unprecedented for the stage of the State Department to be hijacked for political background.”
Pompeo also took on the role of former Energy Secretary Ernst Moniz and ex-Iran deal negotiator Wendy Sherman for joining Kerry at a meeting with Zarif and other Iranian officials earlier this year at a security conference in Munich, although Sherman said Friday that they are not with Kerry and Moniz when she met Zarif. Together with Kerry, Moniz and Sherman played an important role in the negotiations on the 2015 agreement between Iran and various world powers, which lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
“I was not in the meeting, but I’m pretty sure that he was not there to support the AMERICAN policy regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.
“Ex-secretaries of state — all of them, from the political party should not be involved in” this type of activity, ” he said. “To actively undermine the AMERICAN policy of former secretary of state is literally unheard of.”
Meetings between a private citizen of the V. S. and foreign official are not against the law, and not per se inappropriate or a violation of the federal regulations, but Trump, Pompeo and several GOP lawmakers say they’re proof Kerry and former Obama administration officials try to undermine the appeal of the hard line on Iran.
“John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, that can only serve to undercut our great work at the expense of the American people,” Trump tweeted late Thursday. “He told them to wait on the Trump of Administration! He Was registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!”
The law Trump invoked — the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, requires registration and transparency by people or companies working on behalf of foreign governments, political parties or persons.
But Josh Rosenstein, a partner with the Washington law firm Sandler Reiff and a specialist in the lobbying of the enforcement, said: there are too many unanswered questions to know whether the law applies to Kerry’s interactions with Zarif. FARA’s provisions do not extend to activities that are wholly abroad, where Kerry spoke with him matters. Also unclear is whether all Iranians specifically asked Kerry for advice.
“The devil is always in the details,” Rosenstein said. “Just to give advice to a foreign government makes you not a foreign agent.”
When reports of Kerry’s ex-officio contacts with Zarif for the first surfaced in May, Trump tweeted similar thoughts. “John Kerry can’t get over the fact that he had his chance and blew it! Stay away from negotiations, John, you are hurting your country!” he said on 8 May. A day earlier, he tweeted: “The United States does not need John Kerry is possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very bad negotiating Iran Deal. He was the one who made this MESS in the first place!”
Trump and Pompeo’s criticism came after Kerry told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that earlier reports of his meetings with Zarif were correct: They had met three or four times since Kerry left office, but not because Pompeo took the job in April. One of those meetings took place in Oslo, Norway, and another in Munich, ” he said. A third is reported to have taken place at the headquarters of the United Nations, which is technically not on AMERICAN soil.
Kerry said Hewitt, that he is not coaching the Iranians on how to deal with the Trump of administration.
“That is not my job, and my coaching him would not, you know, that’s not how it works,” he said in the interview. “What I’ve done is tried to elicit from him (Zarif) what Iran would be willing to do to the dynamics in the Middle East.”
Associated Press writer Richard Lardner contributed to this report.