Let’s talk interference.
I would love to hear the more liberal take on the “shadow diplomacy” action being activily undertaken by John Kerry. I can’t recall any time in history where an outgoing administration actively engaged in unauthorized foreign policy so brazenly.
I’m not going to scream Logan Act!!!! although it will be curious to see if the same Democrats that screamed that about Flynn come to the defense of Kerry. A report came out last night Friday that Kerry is actively lobbying foreign governments and congressman counter to the administration as it relates to the Iran deal, and word hit the wires within the last day that he’s also actively interfering with Palestinian affairs also.
A few examples:
WASHINGTON — John Kerry’s bid to save one of his most significant accomplishments as secretary of state took him to New York on a Sunday afternoon two weeks ago, where, more than a year after he left office, he engaged in some unusual shadow diplomacy with a top-ranking Iranian official.
He sat down at the United Nations with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to discuss ways of preserving the pact limiting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It was the second time in about two months that the two had met to strategize over salvaging a deal they spent years negotiating during the Obama administration, according to a person briefed on the meetings.
With the Iran deal facing its gravest threat since it was signed in 2015, Kerry has been on an aggressive yet stealthy mission to preserve it, using his deep lists of contacts gleaned during his time as the top US diplomat to try to apply pressure on the Trump administration from the outside. President Trump, who has consistently criticized the pact and campaigned in 2016 on scuttling it, faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to continue abiding by its terms.
Kerry also met last month with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and he’s been on the phone with top European Union official Federica Mogherini, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal the private meetings. Kerry has also met with French President Emmanuel Macron in both Paris and New York, conversing over the details of sanctions and regional nuclear threats in both French and English.
The rare moves by a former secretary of state highlight the stakes for Kerry personally, as well as for other Obama-era diplomats who are dismayed by what they see as Trump’s disruptive approach to diplomacy, and who view the Iran nuclear deal as a factor for stability in the Middle East and for global nuclear nonproliferation. The pact, which came after a marathon negotiating session in Vienna that involved Iran and six world powers, lifted sanctions in return for Iran stopping its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“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. “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.”
Kerry declined to be interviewed for this story. The quiet lobbying campaign — by him and others — is being conducted below the radar because he and his allies believe a high-profile defense of the deal by prominent Democrats would only backfire and provoke Trump, making it more likely the president would pull the United States out of the deal.
“Part of the equation is if Ernie [Ernest Moniz, the former US energy ecretary] or John made a bold statement, [Trump] is . . . crazy, and he might do the opposite just to spite them,” said one source who has worked with Kerry. “You’re liable to spur this guy in a direction you don’t want him to go in, just to be spiteful.”
Moniz was a key part of the negotiating team, meeting with his Iranian counterpart as they determined some of the technical scientific details.
A former Obama White House official said there is little to be gained by aiming the effort directly at Trump.
“At least from our network, you’re not going to find messages aimed at him directly,” said the official. “It would be counterproductive. Anything with our brand attached to it, he’ll run in the opposite direction.”
Democratic lawmakers in Congress also have been relatively quiet, and not all share Kerry’s belief that the deal is essential for preventing a nuclear arms race in the volatile region. Kerry has quietly tried to bolster support in Congress. In recent weeks he’s placed dozens of phone calls and, often with Moniz by his side, has lobbied members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan. While he is not negotiating as he did as secretary of state, he is attempting through quiet advocacy to preserve what he accomplished.
Kerry supporters see in this campaign some of his trademark traits, especially his unflagging energy even in the face of potential failure. Critics see something else, a former office holder working with foreign officials to potentially undermine the policy aims of a current administration.
Kerry is coordinating his push with a group of officials who were his top advisers at the State Department, and who helped craft and negotiate the Iran deal in the first place. The group, called Diplomacy Works, has an advisory council that includes lead Iran-deal negotiator Wendy Sherman, former State Department chief of staff Jon Finer, and former spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
The group claims to be responsible for 100 news articles, 34 television and radio hits, and 37 opinion pieces on the Iran question. They do fact checks of criticisms of the agreement and blast them out to an e-mail list of nearly 4,000 policy makers and foreign policy experts.
But the group determined that the most influential voices would not be Democrats, and instead would focus on Europeans, Israelis, and nonpartisan experts to try and salvage the deal, according to a person involved in the effort. As a sign of the their success, Kerry has pointed to an April 25 letter signed by 26 former top-ranking Israeli military and security officials urging the United States to stay in the agreement.
“Our effort is self-aware,” said David Wade, a longtime Kerry adviser who was chief of staff at the State Department and is helping advise Diplomacy Works. “We are in uncharted waters. The bipartisan, traditional foreign policy community remains on the president’s enemies list from 2016. The president delights in dismissing anything accomplished under his predecessor, so we know traditional validators wouldn’t be compelling to him.”
“This isn’t President Obama’s agreement. It’s the world’s agreement,” he added. “Maybe Macron, Merkel, and Great Britain can persuade the administration, but if they can’t they’ll be even more essential to protecting the deal absent the United States. We know these voices are powerful. They have an audience with the president and our allies are popular at home.”
They are not ignoring the domestic audience.
Kerry and Moniz met in February with Ryan, who has been outspoken in his opposition to the Iran deal. Kerry also held a breakfast briefing last week with members of the House and Senate, which was designed to answer questions as well as underscore how, if Trump pulls out, Europe could hold the deal together.
Kerry’s activities could raise questions if they are perceived as a direct effort to counter current administration foreign policy.
- Former secretary of state told a close confidant of Mahmoud Abbas that he’s considering another run for the White House
- Urged Palestinians to ‘play for time’ while Trump is president and said he could broker a separate peace deal with Israel
- Lebanese academic who met with Kerry in London relayed the conversation back to the Palestinian Authority, and an Israeli newspaper reported it
Kerry, 74, said his advanced age wouldn’t be an impediment to mounting another White House bid, and urged Agha to tell Abbas to ‘stay strong’ and ‘play for time’ while Trump is in the White House.
The paper reported that Kerry ‘used derogatory terms and even worse’ to describe President Donald Trump, and said Abbas should focus on personally attacking the U.S. president rather than weighing in on his foreign policy decisions.
Kerry told an audience at the World Economic Forum last year that the Trump administration would last only ‘a year’ or ‘two years’ if he were to pull out of an Obama-brokered nuclear deal with Iran.
He told Agha that he could broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace process that’s separate from the on-again, off-again roadmap the Trump administration is pursuing.