In 2019 President Trump tried to open a backchannel to enable communication with Iran’s top officials and he viewed the September U.N. General Assembly as a potential chance to defuse the escalating tension with Tehran, but this effort failed.
Only 2 months earlier, however, another backchannel was doing particularly well in New York. It was Iran’s smooth-talking foreign minister, who was an English speaker, called Mohammad Javad Zarif. He had a meeting with Robert Malley who was President Obama’s Middle Eastern adviser, in what it seems was a bid to ignore the Trump team and lay down the foundation to build post-Trump relations.
This shows exactly who Mr. Zarif is as he has forged relations with influential U.S. liberals in the past 10 years. These relationships continue unabated into what the highest level of national security as well as intelligence sources stated allowed the Iranian regime to ignore Mr. Trump while directly working with the Obama administration veterans that Tehran was hoping would soon be returned to power in Washington.
One of these was John F. Kerry the former Secretary of State, who met Mr. Zarif in the Trump years. So did Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in the Obama-era. They included Mr. Malley, who were top U.S. negotiators for the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Tehran has made promises to reduce its nuclear enrichment activities so that it can be lifted off economic sanctions relief and access tens of billions of dollars resting in frozen bank accounts.
Mr. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the pact in 2018. He said there was a need for a much tougher agreement that addressed also Iran’s support for terror groups and its behavior in the Middle East.
Mr. Kerry and Mr. Malley are both in the Biden administration, Mr. Kerry is the climate adviser while Mr. Malley is about to be appointed to play an important role in U.S.-Iranian relations from his roost as the special envoy for Iran policy at the State Department. Mr. Zarif’s power extends a long way past the negotiating table. Many sources have reported to the Washington Times that he has tremendous influence over a tightly knit group within the U.S. that has been advocating for Washington to take a more cooperative tack toward Iran.