Over this weekend, the Munich Security Conference took place, and saw a lot of comments by high profile officials from around the world. The event also led to some chances for officials to meet, including a very unusual meeting.
In a story first broken by the Federalist, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) led a delegation, which also included Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Chris Van Hollum (D-MD), as well as former Secretary of State John Kerry, to hold a secretive meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
The US State Department denied knowledge of any such meeting, though Murphy confirmed it, saying he believes the US must talk to its enemies. This is still a huge deal, not the least of which because it puts current opposition senators who are at odds with President Trump on the situation in Iran in a room with Iran’s top diplomat.
This is almost certain to be used by the Trump Administration to accuse the Democrats of trying to undercut his foreign policy with secret meetings, and this is likely to happen whether or not the meeting actually happened. Trump was already accusing Kerry of regular meetings of this sort, suggesting it was illegal.
There remains much that’s still unknown about this meeting, most importantly what they talked about. No hints were given in the Federalist report, which instead tried to draw similarities between the meeting and pre-inauguration Trump Administration meetings with Russia. Murphy did not go into detail in early reports, and the administration similarly did not offer any indication they knew anything beyond that a meeting had taken place.
Most early coverage of the report used it to try to portray Sen. Murphy negatively. The Union Journal was quick to present this secret meeting as involving “Pro-Iranian Regime US Senator” Murphy, even while Murphy is presenting Iran as an adversary.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was deeply critical of the meeting, saying it might undercut US policies and sanctions against Iran and Zarif.