Buck Sexton: John Kerry’s freelance Iran nuke diplomacy is wrong in every way

Buck Sexton: John Kerry’s freelance Iran nuke diplomacy is wrong in every way
© Francis Rivera

With just days remaining before the May 12th deadline for the Trump administration to re-certify the Iran nuclear deal, the partisan feuding is reaching its pinnacle. Many senior former Obama-era officials tied to the Joint Plan of Comprehensive Action (JCPOA) apparently feel personally invested in the deal’s continuation. They know that their professional reputations — and Obama’s dubious foreign policy legacy — hang in the balance.

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Add to this the recent presentation of Iranian nuclear deception that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared for all the world to see, and there are countless interested parties in the imminent fate of the Iran deal at home, in the Middle East, and around the world.

Ultimately, it is in the hands of President TrumpDonald John TrumpMcCabe says he was fired because he 'opened a case against' Trump McCabe: Trump said 'I don't care, I believe Putin' when confronted with US intel on North Korea McCabe: Trump talked to me about his election victory during 'bizarre' job interview MORE and his foreign policy team to stay in the Iran deal or withdraw. Everyone seems to understand this, except perhaps former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryWarren taps longtime aide as 2020 campaign manager In Virginia, due process should count more than blind team support Trump will give State of Union to sea of opponents MORE, who has reportedly been meeting with Iranian interlocutors and strategizing with them in a way that one can only assume is meant to counter the Trump team’s approach and limit its options.

This act of hubris by the previous secretary of State is disloyal, unethical and a clear violation of existing federal law, the Logan Act (more on that dubious statute shortly).

Iran is still an enemy regime. While the United States is part of a six-country coalition that has a conditional deal with the Iranians, the mullahs in Tehran are not our friends, nor have they moderated their behavior in response to the Obama administration’s naïve largesse. If anything, they’ve gotten worse.

The Iranian government, specifically the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, has the blood of U.S. soldiers in Iraq on its hands. The theocrats in Tehran tell the world they intend to erase our ally Israel off the map. They ally with the most vicious thugs in the region and are a force for chaos throughout the mid-east. None of this has gotten better since Obama handed the mullahs an economic lifeline and delivered pallets with billions in cash.

That John Kerry would, as described in a Boston Globe report, sit down with Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran, on multiple occasions and give him any insight into how to manage or outmaneuver the Trump foreign policy team is an outrage.

Regardless of Kerry’s motives, he is negotiating from the other side of the table against the United States. That Kerry would even for a moment assist the agenda of fanatics who support Assad, Hezbollah, and Hamas instead of showing any good faith deference to the current American commander-in-chief is disgraceful.

To be sure, Kerry has a right as a citizen to express his ideas publicly. That’s not at issue, as the former secretary of State and senator has also been part of a concerted effort of former Obama-era officials called “Diplomacy Works” to effectively churn out as much pro-JCPOA propaganda as possible. While the op-eds, TV hits and radio interviews from this enterprise may be unwise, they aren’t unethical.

There is something very different, however, about the most recently departed secretary of State engaging in what can only be called shadow diplomacy. To work at cross-purposes with the Trump administration, Kerry has enlisted not only the help of the Iranians, but some of our crucial allies in the nuclear deal as well.

Kerry has held discrete meetings with German President Frank-Walter Stenmeier and French President Emmanuel Macron, and has been on phone calls with senior European Union officials. All of this was done in order to create a backchannel effort for maintaining the Iran deal which — at a minimum — boxes in the Trump administration’s options for dealing with Iran.

The legality of Kerry’s Iran machinations also deserves scrutiny. The Logan Act is meant to prohibit individual Americans from conducting their own personal foreign policy. It is an obscure statute from 1799 that has never been used to prosecute anyone and would be unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge. But this once arcane law has become infamous with good reason. The Logan Act has been used as a weapon in the biggest partisan battle of the Trump era.

Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesFrom border to Mueller, Barr faces challenges as attorney general Hillicon Valley: House Intel panel will release Russia interviews | T-Mobile, Sprint step up merger push | DHS cyber office hosting webinars on China | Nest warns customers to shore up password security House Intel panel votes to release Russia interview transcripts to Mueller MORE, the former acting attorney general best known for the anti-Trump insubordination that led to her firing, used the prospect of a Logan Act violation to entrap General Michael Flynn. From her senior perch at DOJ, Yates dispatched federal investigators to question Flynn, who at the time was the incoming national security advisor. While the facts remain in dispute, the FBI later claimed Flynn’s lack of candor was its own felony. He was charged and pleaded guilty.

Invoking the Logan Act was Yates’s flimsy pretext for deploying federal agents against Flynn, but the anti-Trump media went along with the charade. While everyone seemed to understand that the Logan Act is dead letter, there was very little criticism of using an invalid law to ensnare a senior White House official in a process crime.

Kerry should, at a minimum, get a visit from some of Sally Yates’s former colleagues to ask about his own possible Logan Act violations. His case on the merits appears much more blatant and egregious. Otherwise, it becomes all too clear that the Logan Act is just being held in reserve so that it can be deployed as a partisan cudgel against the next hapless Republican official who aggravates the professional bureaucracy.

Partisan politics don’t stop at the water’s edge, and they never will. But we can only have one administration and one chief diplomat at a time. If John Kerry wants to play the secretary of State, he should either wait for the next Democrat administration, or develop a movie career.

The Trump administration deserves the ability to exercise their official functions without confusion among their counterparts abroad or ideologically driven sabotage here at home.

John Kerry knows better, and should act better.

Buck Sexton is a political commentator, national security analyst and host of "The Buck Sexton Show.” He is a former CIA officer in the Counterterrorism Center, appears frequently on Fox News Channel and CNN and has been a guest radio show host for Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. Follow Buck on Twitter @BuckSexton.