In recent days, the London-based news channel “Iran International” obtained audio of a private conversation Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had with an economist serving the Iranian government. The New York Times reported Sunday on the detail at issue: “Former Secretary of State John Kerry informed him that Israel had attacked Iranian interests in Syria at least 200 times, to his astonishment, Mr. Zarif said.”
Kerry on Monday night issued a blanket denial of any such conversation. Notably, Kerry’s denial is different from that of the State Department. Kerry says the conversation never happened, while State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to specifically address the leaked audio. However, the conversation revealed was a private one between the Iranian Foreign Minister and another Iranian official. It was not intended for the public. Therefore, it was not intended to smear Kerry but as a private piece of information among Iranian officials.
Kerry himself said in September 2018, shortly after Israel acknowledged the 200 strikes, that he had spoken with Zarif “three or four” times IN THE PREVIOUS MONTHS. He told CNBC in June 2019 that he had only spoken with “one Iranian once” after Trump’s May 2018 decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, saying he had spoken briefly with Zarif at the Munich Security Conference in February of that year (2018). Therefore, he held several conversations with Zarif well before the revealed audio.
Kerry’s advocates argue that Israeli strikes were vox populi. If that is so, why would he deny the conversation? Indeed, it is known that Israel had struck Hezbollah "dozens of times" in Syria, but there was neither official confirmation nor about the fact regarding the number of times the strikes took place. However, Israeli intelligence learned about the Kerry's leak and by September 2018, a senior Israeli official declared that more than 200 specifically Iranian targets were struck in the previous two years in Syria.
No wonder that Iranian officials are exultant to see how “Israeli aggression” has been finally confirmed thanks to the irresponsible leak from John Kerry.