In new leaked audio obtained by the London-based Persian news channel Iran International and shared with the New York Times, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told him Israel had attacked Iranian targets in Syria at least 200 times.
The leaked audio was reportedly part of a three-hour taped conversation between Zarif for an oral history project documenting the current Iranian administration. According to the Times, Zarif said he was astonished by Kerry’s admission.
Kerry, who is currently U.S. special presidential envoy for climate for President Joe Biden’s administration, has denied the allegations raised by Zarif. On Monday, Kerry tweeted, “I can tell you that this story and these allegations are unequivocally false. This never happened – either when I was Secretary of State or since.
Kerry’s denial came after several Republican lawmakers called for an investigation into Zarif’s allegations and even called for Kerry to resign or be removed by the Biden administration.
Fellow former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “Secretary Kerry, can you please explain to the American people why you disclosed information about Israeli operations to Iranian FM @JZarif? We’ve known for years you were helping him. Americans deserve to know why.”
Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox & Friends on Tuesday morning that Kerry allegedly sharing secrets with Iran, “would be a major foreign policy catastrophe for the country if it were revealed to be true. And it’s not clear when exactly he told them about it; was it after he was Secretary of State, was it during the negotiations?”
“I think this is something that needs to be looked at. And the most important thing as well is he’s now part of this administration — he’s got to stick to the climate stuff,” Rubio added. “We’ve got to be very careful that we don’t have this guy now sticking his nose into any other work happening with Iran, even though I’m not sure that the people working on Iran now would be much better.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in a statement on Monday, “If this tape is verified, it would signal catastrophic and disqualifying recklessness by Envoy Kerry to Foreign Minister Zarif that endangered the safety of Americans and our allies. And it would be consistent with his long pattern of empowering Iran’s regime. Kerry poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the Ayatollah’s terrorist bank accounts, was a close confidant with Zarif during the Obama administration, and was caught repeatedly meeting with him during the Trump administration (notwithstanding the Logan Act) – and has never publicly accounted for what they discussed.”
In a Monday Senate floor speech, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) said if the tape is verified, Kerry should resign.
“I don’t do this lightly. In my entire time in the Senate, I’ve never called for anyone’s resignation,” Sullivan said. “But his record, John Kerry’s record, of undermining working families and working against American national security interests was too much to bear. He needs to go.”
Asked about the audio during a Monday press conference, State Department spokesperson Ned Price would not comment on the contents of the leaked audio. Price said he can’t “speak to the authenticity of leaked material,” but said, “I would just make the broad point that if you go back and look at press reporting from the time, this certainly was not secret, and governments that were involved were speaking to this publicly, on the record.”
Kerry’s initial tweet denying the allegations cited a Washington Post reporter’s tweet of a 2018 Reuters article, in which Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told reporters Israel was behind at least 200 strikes on Iranian targets in Syria over the course of the prior two years.