(CNSNews.com) – As reaction to President Trump’s Iran policy announcement continues to pour in, the stance taken by the two men most intimately associated with the nuclear deal is raising eyebrows.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, in an unusual public intervention from a senior administration figure out of office for less than a year, issued a statement accusing Trump of being reckless, egotistical, lacking common sense, and endangering U.S. national security interests.
In his speech on Friday, Trump refused to certify Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Kerry had played a key role in negotiating.
Rather than focus exclusively on defending the merits of the deal and challenging Trump’s reasoning, Kerry included personal attacks on the president’s maturity, using the word “adults” or “adult” three times in the 650-word statement.
Kerry said Americas allies, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and “the adults in his own cabinet” all know that Iran has lived up to its end of the JCPOA.
“Our allies and our Congress must now act as the only adults left in the room with the power to protect our national interests,” he added later.
And in concluding, Kerry again wrote, “Congress now gets an opportunity to be the adult in the room and act in America’s genuine national security interest. The country and the world really are watching.”
Commenting on Kerry’s statement, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Elliot Abrams observed that President George W. Bush, after leaving office, had been praised for not sniping at his successor.
“Bush understood that people who have just left office are in many ways in the worst position to evaluate the work of their successors – because they are not neutral and they are almost certain not to be fair. They are emotionally involved; they have reputations to defend,” Abrams wrote.
Abrams said Kerry’s statement reflected “emotion and ego,” and that his tone simply “fortified the criticism that he and President Obama were so determined to get an agreement that they were willing to accept uneven terms – better for Iran than for the United States.”
In his Friday speech, Trump also signaled that the U.S. Treasury Department will designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for terrorist activity.
He outlined Iran’s hand behind terror directed at the U.S. over the decades since the Islamic revolution, and the leading role played by the IRGC, which he described as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “personal terror force and militia.”
That decision prompted Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Kerry’s Iranian counterpart in the nuclear talks, to tweet, “Today, Iranians – boys, girls, men, women – are ALL IRGC; standing firm with those who defend us the region against aggression terror.”
That expression of robust support for the IRGC came from a man who is characterized by many in the U.S. foreign policy and media establishment as a “moderate” in the Tehran regime.
Zarif’s tweet drew many strong responses on Twitter, including some from Iranians rejecting his assertion that “all” Iranians are IRGC and advising him not to speak in their name.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) commented, “‘the moderate’ shows his extremism: Standing with the IRGC, he defends the group’s terror and aggression in the region.”
“Thank you for confirming this,” Hudson Institute senior fellow and Iran expert Michael Doran said in a tweet directed at Zarif. “A lot of well-meaning dupes in my country think you are a moderate battling extremists.”
Over many months, Kerry and Zarif led their respective negotiation teams in talks in Europe that delivered the JCPOA in mid-2015.
The two men were photographed together in Vienna, Geneva and Lausanne, strolling or huddling together, and the rapport they built was later cited by Kerry after he called Zarif asking him to intervene when the IRGC seized 10 U.S. Navy sailors in the Persian Gulf.
Kerry later praised Zarif a Iranian “patriot.”
“I want to make it clear that Javad is a very tough, very capable negotiator, a patriot all the time, who fought hard for his nation’s interests, while always trying to find a constructive way to solve the problems that we both understood were gigantic hurdles for both of our countries, for both of our people, for our politics, and the divisions that exist at home for each of us,” Kerry said in London last November.