Walter Mitty at the Negotiating Table

By | 2018-09-16T08:51:57+00:00 September 16th, 2018|
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Every administration seeks a legacy, and as Obama Administration legacy items go, it’s doesn’t get much more legacy than the Iran deal. It was supposed to be the great realignment, the beginning of the transformation of Iran from implacable adversary to strategic partner. In return for what amounted to paper promises, the murderous mullahs would be welcomed back into international polite society, free to travel and do business.

It was so important to the administration that its negotiation involved virtually the entire foreign policy establishment, from the State Department to the Defense Department to the intelligence agencies and the National Security Council to the Department of Energy.

Its conclusion required secret side-deals, spying on Congress, allies, and domestic political opponents, lying to the press, and end-runs around the international banking system.

And then, after it was concluded, the deal was presented a fait accompli, to be stopped only by an unobtainable two-thirds congressional majority, turning the treaty ratification process upside-down.

So it must have been agonizing for former administration officials to stand by and watch the Trump Administration dismantle the thing piece by piece, finally pulling out altogether and re-imposing both nuclear and non-nuclear sanctions on the regime.

How galling to watch not only the work of years destroyed, but also the very ally-in-waiting shaken to its foundations by economic collapse, and its dreams of regional hegemony threatened on every front. Companies and entire countries will find themselves having to choose between doing business with the increasingly impoverished mullahs and doing business with a booming U.S. economy. Some choice.

So galling, in fact, that the former administration has found itself unwilling to stand by and watch.

Kerry on the Case
Following up on earlier reports, we learned this week that former Secretary of State John Kerry has been conducting unauthorized shuttle diplomacy, trying to salvage what remains of the fraudulent Iran deal. According to reports, he has been pressuring Iran on the fringes of its Middle East empire, about Yemen and Syria, and hoping to include the active Iranian missile program in a new deal.

At the same time, one presumes that he has been working with the Europeans to find ways around the new sanctions, ways to read international agreements (no matter how strained the interpretation) to allow European and the Chinese governments to protect their companies from U.S. sanctions.

In short, as the Iranian people’s disgust with and rebellion against the regime gains steam, Kerry seeks to give it a new lease on life, in direct opposition to current administration policy. Kerry himself admitted as much, attacking the administration in his talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and attacking it publicly for what he believes is its policy of regime change rather than engagement on his pet issues.

Fortunately, the people of the region seem to be as opposed to the mullahs as Kerry assumes the administration is. Regime change seems to be the policy of an increasing number of Iranians, who are striking and taking to the streets on a daily basis. And closer to home than either Syria or Yemen, people in the majority-Shia city of Basra, Iraqis recently torched the Iranian consulate there, as well as the headquarters of Iran-friendly militias.

Kerry’s own personal foreign policy reflects neither that of the duly elected U.S. government which he once served, nor the people of Iran and its would-be satrapies. It’s merely another manifestation of a party and a political class that refuses to admit it lost the last election, and with it, the right to steer the ship of state onto the rocks.

So what is to be done?

“Sauce, Goose, Gander”
Recall that it was the Logan Act—historically unenforceable garbage—that Sally Yates used as the pretext for action against Michael Flynn. It would be almost impossible to bring charges under the law, but it would be relatively easy to use it to open an investigation.

Far better would be a criminal investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Ultimately, it was a FARA violation that nailed Flynn and became the basis for several other indictments from the never-ending Mueller Investigation. As Michael Rubin points out, FARA “covers not only formal lobbying, but also providing advice to foreign governments or individuals about how to change or circumvent U.S. law.”

Kerry might counter that he was merely trying to act as an honest broker among parties, including the U.S. government. He would claim that he never actively represented a foreign government, but merely related concerns, positions, and discussed possible courses of action with the various governments.

Fine, let him prove it. Let’s see his communications, his emails, his phone and travel records. Let’s see his notes from these discussions and conversations. Let’s line them up with press coverage, and see what kind of public pressure he sought to create. Let’s see what, if any, U.S. government officials he was in communication with. Let’s see what U.S. political parties and actors, if any, he coordinated with. Let’s take a look at who, if anyone, was footing the bill for all this activity.

Even the potential prosecution itself would be enough to tie Kerry down in an expensive and time-consuming process, as well as undermining his credibility with the foreign governments and organizations he seems to consider his real constituents. The need to defend himself would leave him little time for these adventures.

If this smacks of politicizing the law enforcement process, à la Mueller and company, understand that theirs has been a prosecution for political purposes, apparently to overturn election results they didn’t like. The administration would be pursuing this course not to punish a political adversary, but to maintain control over policy it is rightly entitled to set, and to rein in a rogue former official who is interfering with the proper business of government.

Photo Credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

About the Author:

Joshua Sharf has headed the Independence Institute’s PERA Project for three years. In that time he has authored a number of Backgrounders and Issue papers on Colorado’s Public Pensions, contributed to the Institute’s weekly newspaper column, and spoken to political and civic groups across the state on the subject. He routinely testifies before the state legislature on proposed pension reform bills. He has also done original reporting on PERA for Watchdog.org and I2I’s Complete Colorado news site and is a regular guest on local talk radio, discussing this and other state and national political issues. He has an MBA and an MS in Finance from the University of Denver’s Daniels School of Business, and has also worked as a sell-side equities research analyst.