The State Department on Thursday warned former Secretary of State John Kerry against holding diplomatic talks with Iran behind the current administration’s back, possibly compromising the government’s Iran strategy.
“It’s unfortunate if people from a past administration would try to compromise the progress we’re trying to make in this administration,” the assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, Manisha Singh told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“I don’t have personal knowledge of those meetings, but if that is happening, again, I would find it very inappropriate,” the senior State Department official said.
Kerry has admitted to meeting “three or four times” with his counterpart Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif after leaving his position as secretary of state. The two were key players in negotiating former President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration scrapped in May.
“Every secretary of state, former secretary of state, continues to meet with foreign leaders,” Kerry told Fox News on Wednesday. “We don’t negotiate. We’re not involved in interfering with policy, but we certainly have reasonable discussions about nuclear weapons, the world, China, different policies, obviously.”
Kerry said he has talked to Iran about “their behavior” and the way forward to a new security arrangement for the region. The former secretary of state said that he too objects to Iran’s troublesome ventures such as its terrorist initiatives in Yemen and activities in Syria.
“We object as much as anybody to those activities, but we differ in how you’re going to control them,” Kerry said. “We believe by pulling out unilaterally the president has actually made it harder for an Iranian leader to deal with them.”
The current State Department is determined to protract crippling pressure on Iran’s economy and government until the country ceases its aggressive behavior toward the surrounding areas, Singh said. Some of its specific goals are preventing Iran from developing a nuclear program, securing the release of political prisoners, and obtaining on-site inspections in the country. Iran must also stop its terrorist activities in Yemen, threats toward Israel, and pull its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal regime, the Department said.
“We remain focused on our new Iran strategy,” Singh said. “We have specific steps that we’ve outlined.”