Four Republican senators on Monday called for a freeze on funding for State Department official John Kerry‘s new climate-change initiative until the former secretary of state answers questions about his alleged intelligence-sharing with Iran.
In a letter to Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the GOP lawmakers said Mr. Menendez should hold up $2.5 million in taxpayer money to establish Mr. Kerry‘s “office of the special presidential envoy for climate” inside the State Department.
The money should be frozen, they said, until Mr. Kerry provides a detailed accounting of his interactions with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who said in a recent leaked audiotape that Mr. Kerry shared with him secret information about Israeli military activity.
“Several Republican senators have called for an investigation into the veracity and context of the allegations against Kerry, and for his resignation or firing if the allegations are confirmed. However, Congress has limited leverage to ensure that these legitimate requests are addressed by the Biden administration,” wrote Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Marco Rubio of Florida and Todd Young of Indiana, all members of the Foreign Relations Committee.
The senators said the $2.5 million should be held up until Mr. Kerry provides a list of all meetings, phone calls, and other interactions with Mr. Zarif from January 2017 to January of this year, along with copies of all digital communications related to Israeli military activity. They also said Mr. Kerry must provide a sworn statement “that he did not divulge classified information to Foreign Minister Zarif.”
Mr. Menendez and his colleagues in the Democrat-controlled Senate are unlikely to agree to the request, but the Republican senators’ letter puts renewed public pressure on Mr. Kerry for his seemingly close working relationship with Mr. Zarif, a key figure in the Iranian regime.
Last month, the London-based Iran International media outlet and the New York Times released leaked audio of Mr. Zarif discussing the power of Iranian military officials in his country.
As an example of how he’s often kept in the dark by the military, Mr. Zarif said that he learned from Mr. Kerry the true extent of Israel’s air campaign against Iran-backed militias in Syria. Mr. Zarif said that Mr. Kerry told him Israel had conducted more than 200 covert airstrikes against Iranian targets.
Mr. Kerry has denied ever having such a conversation.
“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,” he said in a Twitter post last month.
State Department officials also have sought to downplay the charges of intelligence-sharing and have pointed to a September 2018 public acknowledgment of the 200 airstrikes by the Israeli government.
But there are major unanswered questions about the timing of the alleged Kerry-Zarif conversation.
Mr. Kerry has admitted to meeting with Mr. Zarif at least twice after leaving his post as secretary of state in January 2017 and prior to former President Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018. The first public disclosure of Israel’s 200 airstrikes in Syria appears to have come in September 2018.
The four Republican senators said neither Mr. Kerry nor the State Department have adequately explained the matter.
“Those defenses are not tenable,” they wrote in their letter to Mr. Menendez.