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John Kerry under fire after admitting to meetings with Iranian officials behind Trump's back

Image source: Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images

Former Secretary of State John Kerry faces accusations of "shadow diplomacy" after admitting Wednesday that he has met with Iranian officials a number times since he and his boss, former President Barack Obama, left office in January 2017.

What are the details?

While promoting his new book, "Every Day is Extra," Kerry told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he has met with Iran Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif "probably...three or four times" in the past year or so.

Kerry said he met with Zarif during a conference in Norway, and thought he recalled another discussion with him taking place at the World Economic Forum in Munich.

Hewitt asked if Kerry was trying to coach Zarif in the wake of the Trump administration's recent withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, which Kerry orchestrated in 2015.

"No, that's not my job, and coaching him would not, you know, that's not how it works," Kerry responded. "What I have done is tried to elicit from him what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better."

Kerry went on to insist, "I've been very blunt to Foreign Minister Zarif, and told him, 'Look, you guys need to recognize that the world does not appreciate what's happening with missiles, what's happening with Hezbollah, what's happening in Yemen.' "

The former head of the State Department went on to say that Iran is "prepared to negotiate and resolve these issues. But the [Trump] administration's taken a very different tack."

"I don't know as I talk to you today if there's been any dialogue or sit down," he continued. "I don't think there has, which would open up any kind of diplomatic channel."

He added that he believes the Trump administration is "determined to pursue a regime change strategy to bring the economy down and try to isolate further."

Kerry then gave a warning to the Trump administration.

"I would simply caution that the United States historically has not had a great record on regime change strategies, number one," he said to Hewitt. "And number two, that makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for any Iranian leader to sit down and negotiate anything, because they're not going to do it in a capitulatory, you know, situation."

How are people responding?

Fox News reported that an unnamed senior Trump administration official called Kerry's meetings "shameful" while "pointing out what Iranian-backed militias are doing to kill and injure people in Syria, Iraq and Yemen."

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer — who worked for former President George W. Bush — told Fox News, "John Kerry is out giving advice to Iran about how to maneuver around what Donald Trump is doing, it's insidious.

"I don't know if it's legal or illegal, I don't care about that side of it. It's wrong," Fleischer added.

Kerry defended his actions to Fox News' Dana Perino on Wednesday.

"Every secretary of state, former secretary of state continues to meet with foreign leaders, goes to security conferences, goes around the world," he said. "We all do that. And we all have conversations (about) the state of affairs with the world in order to understand them."

What did Trump say in a tweet?

Following reports from earlier this year that Kerry had been meeting with world leaders in an effort to save the Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump tweeted: "The United States does not need John Kerry's possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal. He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!"

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