Connecticut Senator defends meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy says he met Mohammad Javad Zarif because it is "dangerous not to talk to one's enemies".

Elad Benari ,

Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) on Tuesday defended a weekend meeting he held with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Europe.

Murphy said his Saturday meeting with Zarif was important because it is "dangerous not to talk to one's enemies", reported The Associated Press. Murphy said he wanted to see Zarif because there has been no US diplomatic channel with Iran since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal two years ago.

"I have no delusions about Iran — they are our adversary, responsible for the killing of thousands of Americans and unacceptable levels of support for terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East," he wrote, according to AP.

Trump criticized the meeting and said it sounded as though Murphy had violated a federal law known as the Logan Act that bars private citizens from conducting official diplomacy.

The 1799 law makes it a felony for unauthorized Americans to negotiate with governments in disputes with the US Logan Act. Charges have only been filed against two people, both in the 19th century, and neither were convicted, noted AP.

"Is there anything that I should know because that sounds like to me a violation of the Logan Act," Trump said, recalling his reaction when he was told of the meeting. "Did you hear about Senator Murphy met with the Iranians? Well, they ought to find out about it — if it's true. I don't know."

Murphy's meeting with Zarif was first reported in The Federalist. Asked about that report, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Tuesday that he hoped anyone who meets with Zarif would be reflecting the US position with Iran.

Both Trump and Pompeo have in the past criticized former US Secretary of State John Kerry who held meetings with Zarif and other Iranian officials after he left office.

Pompeo at the time stated that what Kerry had “is unseemly and unprecedented” and said that Kerry “ought not to engage in this kind of behavior. It's beyond inappropriate."

Trump attacked Kerry on Twitter at the time, and said that the former Secretary of State’s meetings were "illegal."

"John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people," Trump tweeted.

Kerry had justified his meetings with Iranian officials, claiming, “Every secretary of state, former secretary of state continues to meet with foreign leader

As for Murphy, noted AP, he wrote that he "cannot conduct diplomacy on behalf of the whole of the US government, and I don't pretend to be in a position to do so. But if Trump isn't going to talk to Iran, then someone should."

Murphy said he raised numerous contentious issues in his conversation with Zarif on the sidelines of an international security conference in Munich, Germany. The meeting came as the Trump administration seeks to increasingly isolate Iran through the re-imposition of sanctions under its "maximum pressure campaign" on the Islamic Republic.