The Obama administration's pro-Iran "echo chamber" has found an unlikely ally in Republican senator Rand Paul, who recently engaged in shadow diplomacy with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif—part of what multiple U.S. officials described to the Washington Free Beacon as a larger campaign by the Islamic Republic and its American advocates to erode support for the Trump administration's hardline policies.
With the Iranian economy teetering on the brink of collapse, senior Iranian officials and their allies in the former administration's self-described pro-Iran echo chamber have been scrambling to drive a wedge between President Donald Trump and his national security team. This has included efforts by former top Obama administration officials to disseminate the Iranian regime's anti-Trump talking points to friendly media outlets and others, as the Free Beacon has reported multiple times.
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In a bid to amplify pressure on Trump to back away from his hardline policy on Iran, the echo chamber has turned to Paul, an isolationist senator who says he can serve as the president's emissary to Iran. Multiple U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter told the Free Beacon that Paul is allowing himself to be used by this pro-Iran echo chamber in its last-ditch effort to rescue the nuclear deal — known by the acronym JCPOA — and ensure its survival throughout Trump's presidency.
"The number one thing they're [Iran] trying to obtain is sanctions relief, to be able to survive, outlast Trump and keep the JCPOA intact," according to one U.S. official who would only discuss the sensitive diplomatic matter on background. "It's whoever they can get with this echo chamber noise," the source said. "We all know that. [Paul] is the latest pawn in a very well-orchestrated influence campaign by Iran."
Paul, in recent days, has been in contact with the Iranian foreign minister, though the exact nature of these discussions remains unknown, sources told the Free Beacon.
Other isolationist-leaning conservatives, such as pundit Tucker Carlson, have wandered into the echo chamber. Carlson garnered headlines for publicly opposing Trump's hardline policies towards Iran and reportedly advised the president against striking Tehran in response to its recent downing of a U.S. drone.
"This is effectively an Iranian influence camp that's cultivating Tucker Carlson and Rand Paul," said the U.S. official. "The truth is this is not Rand Paul standing up and saying, ‘I have an idea, I'd like to broker a dialogue.' This is Javad Zarif's plan as communications director and propaganda chief for the Iranian regime to try and have an influence campaign against the president to try and relieve sanctions."
"This collaboration to preserve the JCPOA beyond Trump is a combined effort of the Iranians led by Zarif with the Obama team that wants to preserve their horrible deal legacy, along with certain European leaders and, then, now, with outreach to Tucker Carlson and Rand Paul," the source added.
This strategy is nothing new.
In May, the Free Beacon reported on an effort by top Democrats to amplify anti-Trump talking points issued directly by Zarif. At that time, the goal was to drive a wedge between Trump and the hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton.
With tensions between America and Iran reaching new heights, well-placed U.S. officials see Zarif and his allies courting isolationist voices like Paul.
"They seem to have updated their disinformation propaganda playbook by making outreach to Rand Paul and Tucker Carlson to have some sort of a pincer movement from the left and the right in their information warfare against the president," the official said.
A second U.S. official confirmed that the former officials and Iranians tied to the Obama echo chamber view isolationist Republicans like Paul as their best option to force Trump's hand on Iran.
"The Iranians spent the last two years getting the New York Times and Sen. Bernie Sanders to repeat their talking points," said the source, who works extensively on Iran issues. "Since that obviously didn't work they changed their strategy to getting Reason magazine and Sen. Rand Paul to repeat their talking points. It's not going to work this time either, since their demands are still for Trump to drop sanctions and let them keep attacking Americans, which Trump isn't going to do."
Paul's office declined to comment when reached by the Free Beacon.
A third source with direct knowledge of U.S. policy toward Iran criticized Paul for siding with Zarif and his allies in their diplomatic war on the Trump administration.
"After blocking a bipartisan bill to help American first-responders to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rand Paul now wants to meet with terrorist Iran's foreign minister and revive the Obama nuclear deal by bribing the Tehran mullahs with sanctions relief," the source said, speaking on background. "What a disgrace."