Former officials from the Obama administration are reportedly advising Iran amid escalating tensions with U.S., running an independent foreign policy initiative to counter President Donald Trump.
What are the details?
According to left-leaning outlet the Daily Beast, architects of the Iran nuclear deal, secured by former President Barack Obama, have been in talks with Iranian officials over the past two months — including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif — both over the phone and in person, urging the regime to "stay calm" and "not take Trump's bait."
None of the "several" former Obama aides interviewed by the Daily Beast were named, but they were apparently willing to explain what type of counsel they were providing Iranian higher-ups and insisted their ongoing interactions with the Islamic Republic are "normal."
Journalists Betsy Woodruff and Erin Banco noted that "conversations of this nature sometimes generate" accusations of violating the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from engaging in discussions relevant to a U.S. dispute with another country on behalf of the government.
The authors also pointed out "the likelihood that former Obama officials could face such a charge is basically zero percent," given the fact that no one has ever been convicted under the 1799 law.
The ex-officials would not answer whether or not they had funneled information from the Iranian government to congressional Democrats, but admitted to educating Democratic members of Congress on their experience working with Iranian leaders.
A Republican aide told the Daily Beast those actions are problematic.
"It's not just about what they were saying to the Iranians," the anonymous staffer said. "It's about what they were saying to their political allies back here in the U.S. Their strategy was to divide and isolate the Trump administration just as the Trump administration was trying to re-establish deterrence with Iran.
"In the current highly partisan political environment, the only safe course is to signal national unity — and they contributed to eroding that at home and abroad," the staffer added.
The United States' relationship with Tehran has been shaky for decades, but became more tense after President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the regime. Meanwhile, Iran has been threatening to reverse course on its promises to remaining signatories under the deal by resuming production of highly enriched uranium.
Fellow Iranian rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have blamed Tehran for recent attacks on oil tankers and a Saudi pipeline, further complicating matters. But both sides remain entrenched, with the U.S. demanding Iran stop funding Islamic terrorist groups and imposing its strict theocracy on its people while Iran has dug in its heels out of protest of the economic sanctions.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech Wednesday, "We will not negotiate [with the United States], as negotiations are useless and may even incur harm."