Former Obama officials working to isolate the Trump administration on Iran

The Daily Beast reports that former Obama administration officials are engaged in back-channel communications with Iran. Not only have these officials been talking with Iranian officials, they also gave a briefing to congressional Democrats, potentially communicating to lawmakers from one party what Iranian officials are saying privately.

Three Obama officials who worked closely on the Iran nuclear deal, one of whom is still in touch with Iranian government officials, traveled to Capitol Hill to brief congressional Democrats about the situation. Those former officials said would not say if they passed information from Iranian government officials to members of Congress. Rather, they said they focused on educating members about their experience working with Iranian leaders and how Tehran reacts to economic pressure.

Several former officials who spoke to The Daily Beast stressed that their discussions with their Iranian contacts were “normal.” But in other corners, these kind of talks cause alarm. A Republican congressional aide who works on Iran policy told The Daily Beast the conversations may run counter to the Trump administration’s messaging to the Iranian government.

“It’s not just about what they were saying to the Iranians,” the aide said. “It’s about what they were saying to their political allies back here in the U.S. Their strategy was to divide and isolate the Trump administration just as the Trump administration was trying to re-establish deterrence with Iran. In the current highly partisan political environment, the only safe course is to signal national unity—and they contributed to eroding that at home and abroad.”

All of this is happening as Iran is threatening to drop out of the remnants of the Iran Deal and start enriching uranium once again. The Obama-era officials interceding with Iran aren’t named but it seems likely that Ben Rhodes is one of the people involved. You may remember him as the creator of the “echo-chamber” which helped push through the Iran Deal in the first place. Now he’s doing his best to preserve some portion of it in hopes a Democrat will win the 2020 election. The Free Beacon reported on this last week:

The effort to push this narrative to the media has gained steam following a war of words between Trump and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who is said to have been in contact with top Democrats in Congress and their allies in the Obama administration, sources said.

Just days after Zarif labeled Bolton and other top Trump national security officials as the “B Team,” former top Obama aides Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl repeated this rhetoric online in a series of postings bashing Trump. Rhodes and Kahl are most well known as the creators of a pro-Iran “echo chamber” that was used to mislead Congress and the American public about the terms of the landmark nuclear deal, which Trump abandoned last year…

“Obama’s echo chamber and their pro-Iran deal allies in Congress are putting partisan politics over country, and have the chutzpah to literally repeat the Iranian regime’s talking points,” said one senior GOP congressional official, who would speak only on background to discuss the growing divide.

There’s no point in screaming about Logan Act violations. No one is ever prosecuted under the Logan Act and that won’t change here. Still, the description of this as “normal” seems like a stretch. It’s not normal for members of the prior administration to publicly side with a hostile foreign power against the current president.

Earlier this month, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo rebuked John Kerry saying, “it’s time to get off the stage for the previous administration.” But these Obama-era officials still don’t seem interested in doing that.