Leaked audiotape of Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif indicates he had no knowledge of covert Israeli military strikes before former secretary of state John Kerry provided him with the information, new details that contradict the State Department's recent defense of Kerry.
These details are likely to further fuel calls from leading Republicans for Kerry's firing or resignation. The New York Times reported that Zarif said on the tape that Kerry told him Israel launched 200 airstrikes against Iranian interests in Syria. The Times did not provide further details on that issue. But an independent translation of the audiotape commissioned by the Washington Free Beacon shows that Zarif went on to clarify that he had no prior knowledge of these Israeli strikes before Kerry told him.
"Kerry told me that Israel had launched 200 airstrikes against you [Iran]," said Zarif. "You didn't know?" asked his interviewer. "No, no," he replied.
These new details contradict top State Department officials, who have repeatedly said the information was already in the public domain and not classified.
"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," State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday during a press briefing.
The following day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the strikes "were all reported in the press at the time, so it is utter nonsense." He also accused Republicans of trying to "play politics with this."
Kerry denied the allegations in a Twitter post earlier in the week.
This revelation is likely to heighten calls for Kerry to resign from his current post as the Biden administration's climate envoy.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who is spearheading efforts to pressure Kerry into resigning, said, "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."
"John Kerry must resign immediately," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon earlier this week. "The investigation should be retrospective."
Reps. Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.), Andy Barr (R., Ky.), and Ann Wagner (R., Mo.), all members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to the State Department's inspector general on Wednesday to demand an investigation into Kerry.
"The State Department must investigate the massively alarming allegations that John Kerry leaked information to Iran on covert Israeli military operations. If it's proven that Kerry actively undermined one of America's staunchest allies, he needs to resign from the Biden administration immediately and have his security clearance revoked," Zeldin said in a statement.