Efforts by former Secretary of State John Kerry to conduct shadow diplomacy with Iranian officials in a bid to save the landmark nuclear deal are being met with a cool reception by the Trump administration and allies on Capitol Hill, who told the Washington Free Beacon the former Obama administration official is solidifying his reputation as a tool of the Islamic Republic.
Reports emerged late Friday indicating Kerry has been holding secret talks with top Iranian officials and others in a last minute bid to preserve the Obama administration's chief foreign policy legacy ahead of a May 12 deadline when President Donald Trump is expected to scrap the deal. Trump said on Monday afternoon that he would announce his decision on the deal on Tuesday.
While senior White House officials scramble to convince European allies to agree to a range of fixes regarding the deal, it has become increasingly clear to insiders that Trump is not seeking a compromise that many have described as superficial tweaks to the agreement.
Kerry's rogue diplomatic efforts are being mocked in the West Wing and on Capitol Hill among administration allies who view the former secretary of state of becoming a shill for the Iranians, who are seeking to avoid new economic sanctions that would harm its multi-billion dollar investments with Europe.
"John Kerry's freelance diplomacy trip is ill-advised but likely won't amount to much as there doesn't appear to be any more concessions for him to offer — he already gave away the store to Iran," Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a leading opponent of the deal, told the Free Beacon.
The White House National Security Council and the State Department declined to comment on Kerry's diplomatic efforts, telling the Free Beacon they will not comment on dealings by private individuals.
The State Department would not answer questions as to whether Kerry coordinated his diplomacy or has been in contact with any current administration officials.
However, Trump took to his personal Twitter account to blast Kerry, hinting that his efforts may violate U.S. laws.
"The United States does not need John Kerry's possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal," Trump tweeted. "He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!"
Administration insiders offered similar sentiments in conversations with the Free Beacon, maintaining that Kerry is engaged in a losing bid to interfere with Trump's foreign policy priorities.
"Kerry is setting up a one-two punch to make Trump look weak," said one source close to the White House who advised officials on Iran policy.
"First, he's going to brag that he outmaneuvered Trump by working with the Europeans to save the deal," the source said. "Second, he's going to brag that the State Department and Defense Department are going to constrain Trump in the future too, and that Iran is now open for business. The whole thing is meant to humiliate Trump politically and promote Obama's pro-Iran policies."
Kerry's rogue efforts have also caused uproar in the halls of Congress, where opponents of the deal view the former secretary of state's actions as selling out America.
"It is ridiculous that the Left has been foaming at the mouth at the thought of the Trump transition team reaching out to make diplomatic contacts for the incoming administration, yet now they are silent when John Kerry blatantly sidesteps President Trump to protect his disastrous nuclear deal," said one senior congressional aide who works on the Iran issue. "Kerry should be meeting with American officials to try to explain why it was a good idea for America to sugar-coat the Iran deal, give up all of our leverage against an adversarial regime, and make us less safe."
Richard Goldberg, a former senior aide to Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), told the Free Beacon that Kerry is seeking to bolster European efforts to sell the Trump administration on a series of fixes to the Iran deal that fail to address the Islamic Republic's ongoing nuclear research and development of ballistic missiles.
"You have to ask yourself what in Kerry's own mind is he negotiating, and the only plausible answer you can come up with is that he's helping the Europeans sell Iran on a phony ‘fix' agreement with the Trump administration," said Goldberg, currently a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "That is, the Europeans agree to a deal that doesn't actually alter the JCPOA but have enough buzz words that State Department negotiators can convince Trump to declare victory and move on."
"Kerry's job then is to reassure his buddy [Iranian Foreign Minister Javad] Zarif that he should ignore the Trump administration press releases if there's a deal reached between the U.S. and Europe — because it's a purely phony fix that doesn't alter the deal one bit," Goldberg said.
Another source with knowledge of the last minute efforts to fix the deal and ensure Trump keeps the agreement said the parameters still being discussed fail to fully address Iran's rogue military activities throughout the Middle East.
The so-called fix "won't result in inspections of more suspect military sites, allows Iran to develop missiles that can hit Israel and U.S. forces in the region, [and] locks the U.S. into a flawed deal that has allowed Iran to run rampant throughout the region," said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record about the sensitive diplomatic talks.