KEY POINTS

  • Zarif made the remarks in a March interview with an Iranian journalist
  • Kerry has denied allegations and called the claims “unequivocally false”
  • Republicans call on Kerry to resign

U.S. special envoy for climate change John Kerry is in hot waters after Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claimed in a leaked recording that the former Secretary of State discussed with him over 200 Israeli military operations on Iranian interests in Syria while serving under then-President Barack Obama. Kerry, who is now facing calls for resignation from his current post, has called the claims “unequivocally false.”

Taking to Twitter on Monday night, Kerry said: “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.”

In the leaked audio revealed on Sunday by the New York Times, Zarif says, “It was former US Foreign Secretary John Kerry who told me Israel had launched more than 200 attacks on Iranian forces in Syria.” The leaked audio in question was recorded last month, the Hill reported.

Zarif made the remarks during an interview with journalist and economist Saeed Leylaz. The recording was not supposed to be published until August when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani leaves office, reported The New York Post

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets in April 2016 with then US secretary of state John Kerry after the conclusion of a nuclear deal Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets in April 2016 with then US secretary of state John Kerry after the conclusion of a nuclear deal Photo: AFP / Bryan R. Smith

The Iranian Foreign Minister said that he was shocked that Kerry would reveal such sensitive information to him, according to the recording. It is also not clear whether the former Secretary of State revealed the Israeli strikes to Zarif before they were publicly reported by Israel itself in 2018.

Kerry served as Obama’s Secretary of State from 2013 to 2017.

Responding to a reporter’s question on the issue at a press conference on Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: “I would just make the broad point that 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.”

Amid the row, Republicans are calling Kerry to resign from President Joe Biden’s National Security Council.

“People are talking about treason … John Kerry does all kinds of things that I can’t stand. But this is the one that broke the camel’s back,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), was quoted as saying by Politico.

Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher said it is “unfathomable” that any U.S. diplomat… would leak intelligence to the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism at the expense of one of our staunchest allies.”

Currently, Kerry serves as Biden’s climate envoy on the NSC. He was a chief negotiator of the 2015 Iran nuclear pact. The controversy comes as the Biden administration is making efforts to revive the nuclear deal, opposed by Republicans. Former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in 2018.