As the Trump administration worked to increase economic pressure on Iran in 2018, a delegation of “U.S. former ambassadors,” including John Kerry, held a secret, “off-the-record” meeting with former Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif at his residence in New York City, according to a State Department memo unearthed this week as part of a lawsuit brought to compel the release of this information.
The internal memo, which is marked unclassified, details how these former U.S. ambassadors conducted shadow diplomacy with Iran's top envoy surrounding “nuclear weapons, potential prisoner swaps, [the] Afghanistan withdrawal, and negotiations with the Taliban,” according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a legal advocacy group that sued the State Department to obtain the internal memo.
The document is the firmest proof to date that Obama-era officials were engaged in back-channel efforts to keep negotiations with Iran alive, even as former president Donald Trump and his administration worked to isolate the regime, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo told the Free Beacon in exclusive remarks. Pompeo, who was not aware of these meetings while leading the State Department, said the memo corroborates reports from the time about Kerry's efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal through back-channel powwows with Iranian officials.