Kerry Denies Sharing Secret Information With Iran's Zarif
Former United States Secretary of State John Kerry in a Congressional hearing on May 12 rejected Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s claim that he had discussed 200 Israeli airstrikes in Syria with him. While Zarif gave no date, the number of attacks meant the alleged conversation must have been after Kerry left office in January 2017.
Karry was grilled at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on climate change, where he had been called to testify as President Joe Biden’s climate envoy. Three Republican lawmakers questioned the former secretary of state on whether he had discussed confidential information with Zarif during his tenure or after leaving office.
The issue surfaced last month when Iran International revealed a three-hour-long interview, given in Tehran as part of an oral history project, in which Zarif said he first heard of 200 Israeli airstrikes against Iran-backed forces in Syria from Kerry. This led to immediate accusations that the former secretary might have divulged sensitive and classified information.
Congressman Scott Perry (R-PA) was the first to ask Kerry if he has passed on classified intelligence. Kerry answered: “No, on no occasion, never.” Perry then asked if Zarif had lied in the leaked tape. Kerry responded that Zarif might have been “confused or incorrect.” Kerry insisted he had not divulged secrets: “It didn’t happen, end of story.”
Kerry insisted that when he read about Zarif’s tape it was the first time he heard “the number 200.” But as Iran International reported, while Israeli strikes were widely reported – and presumably well-known in Iran – in 2017, a figure of 200 was not reached until 2018, when Kerry had left office. Kerry last month retweeted a Washington Post reporter’s tweet of a 2018 Reuters article, sourced to a senior Israeli official, reporting that Israel had mounted 200 attacks on Iranian assets in Syria.
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY) followed up asking Kerry if he had met Zarif in February 2019 during the Munich Security Conference. “I have no recollection,” Kerry responded.
Zeldin pressed Kerry on whether he had any phone calls or exchanged messages with Zarif during the Trump administration, which took office in January 2017. Kerry said he had not.
The third lawmaker to question Zarif, Missouri Republican Congresswoman Ann Wager, said she had sent a letter to the Acting State Department Inspector General and to the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, requesting an investigation into Kerry’s relations with Iran’s foreign minister. When Kerry said he was unaware of the letter, she said she would make sure he had a copy.
Congresswoman Wagner told the hearing that she had requested a response from the State Department by “today, May 12” but had not received one. She then asked the committee chairman to enter the letter into the record. Responding to further questions by Wagner, Kerry reiterated that he had not told Zarif anything confidential and cited his long career including his time as Secretary of State.
Republican lawmakers oppose President Joe Biden’s efforts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the JCPOA, which Kerry – alongside new CIA director William Burns – played a major role in negotiating with the Iranians.
The Republicans are arguing that any let-up in the ‘maximum pressure’ imposed by the Trump administration would enable Tehran to send money on regional allies and proxies. They have seized on the latest flareup of violence between Israel and the Palestinians to say that no US sanctions on Iran should be lifted.