Members of the Biden administration, including former Secretary of State John Kerry and current special envoy on Iran policy Robert Malley, held backchannel meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during Trump's presidency in attempt to undermine the Republican president, according to a new report from the Washington Times.
The meetings were reportedly part of a counter-diplomacy effort by the former Obama-era officials — who now serve in the Biden administration — which "allowed for the Iranian regime to bypass Trump and work directly with Obama administration veterans that Tehran hoped would soon return to power in Washington," according to several unnamed national security and intelligence sources.
One former senior U.S. official told the Times that the "underlying goal" of the meetings was "to devise a political strategy to undermine the Trump administration" and set the stage for a more accommodating U.S. stance towards Iran in anticipation of Obama-era officials returning to power.
The meetings reportedly occurred between 2017 and 2019. One of the meetings, between Zarif and Malley, took place after former President Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, which was signed during Obama's presidency.
The deal, which halted sanctions against the terror-sponsoring regime in exchange for its promise to discontinue development on a nuclear weapon, was considered a hallmark achievement by Obama administration officials. But many suspect that Obama officials were simply suckered by the regime, which never had any intentions of holding up their end of the deal's obligations.
Kerry publicly acknowledged meeting with Zarif multiple times early on during Trump's presidency, which prompted Trump to accuse the former secretary of state of violating the Logan Act.
Though the exact details regarding what was discussed are not clear, one of the major objectives of the meetings was to lobby support for reentrance into the Iran deal should the next president be a member of the Democratic Party.
The Times report also notes that, in 2019, Trump sought to set up backchannel communications with the regime in order to defuse rising tensions, but those attempts were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, top Democrats were continuing to meet with Zarif.
Mark Dubowitz, head of the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Times, "Former administration officials can play a very helpful role in close coordination with a sitting administration to open and support sensitive diplomatic channels ... But it is not good practice for senior officials who served at the highest levels of a former administration, Democratic or Republican, to be trying to undermine the policy of a sitting administration by engaging actively with a known enemy of the United States."
"That's especially true when multiple administrations have determined that this enemy is the leading state sponsor of terrorism," he added.