Zarif and Feinstein’s Unholy Spring Fling

By the Apadana Chronicle Editorial Board

Last week, news emerged of a secret dinner meeting that took place between California senator Dianne Feinstein and the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif. A spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the UN in New York claimed that the meeting “took place as our routine meetings with members of Congress.” Earlier, on May 23, Feinstein was observed holding an unlocked iPhone with Zarif’s contact information on display. At the time, Feinstein’s office declined to confirm her communication with the Foreign Minister. Hours later however, her office contended that the dinner meeting was held two weeks prior and arranged in consultation with the State Department. The State Department denied such consultation was ever sought. Feinstein is yet to inform the American people of what was discussed in that meeting. 

The dinner date between the two happened while Zarif visited the US, ostensibly on a mission to undermine the Trump administration’s tough talk on Iran and to stir divisions. Around the same time, Zarif bombastically claimed at an Asia Society forum that he has the authority to swap prisoners between Iran and the US. He then backtracked from this statement in the following days during an interview with Fox News, saying that he is only able to intervene as an individual citizen, but not as the foreign minister. He quickly evaded further elaboration by saying that his efforts were focused on “trying to prevent a war.” With this double talk, Zarif clearly showed that he is not the “professor of human rights” that he claims to be. He reverted to his usual propaganda whitewashing the atrocities of the regime against the Iranian people and others.

With this premise, one would assume that the conversation between Feinstein and Zarif over dinner had little to do with human rights. Knowing the nature of some of the bills Feinstein introduced to the Senate, it is probable that she was as uninterested as Zarif in discussing human rights, particularly with respect to the Iranian people. Zarif may or may not have known this before meeting with Feinstein, but she was indeed the original designer of what Zarif admirers at NIAC call the “Muslim Ban.”

In late October 2001, in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, Feinstein called on Congress to support a six-month moratorium on the issuance of new student visas to international students seeking to study in the US. The legislation was meant to help prevent “terrorists from entering the US through loopholes in [the] immigration and visa system.” The bill also aimed to take advantage of technologies such as fingerprints, retinal scans, and face recognition. The most controversial item on the bill (at least according to today’s standards) was Feinstein’s proposal to “stop all student visas to individuals from countries included on the US State Department’s list of terrorist-sponsoring states.” The bill emphasized that “in the last 10 years, more than 16,000 students have come from such terrorist supporting states as Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, and Syria.” 

Feinstein retracted her controversial proposal after a wave of objections from civil rights groups, including from Iranian-Americans. The American Council of Education President, David Ward also submitted a letter that protested the burden such a moratorium would place on academic life and research programs across the country. After some political maneuvering, Feinstein eventually said she would drop the idea if colleges kept closer tabs on foreign students, particularly those who fail to enroll after entering the US. Ultimately, the bill never made it to the Senate floor. 

Meeting with an American legislator who has a history of a controversial posture towards Iranians questions Zarif’s judgement. It is conceivable that no other senator was so fixated on antagonizing Trump as Dianne Feinstein to meet with the foreign minister of regime hostile to the US. Yet, it is a self-contradictory action on the part of Zarif whose talking points are eaten like candy by NIAC and other regime-aligned individuals living in the US. At the end of the day, the meeting between these two individuals shows how easily US politicians like Feinstein and Iranian regime representatives like Zarif shift positions to suit their political ambitions. In Zarif’s case, he is either ignoring Feinstein’s 2001 legislation, or he has poor judgement with respect to the Iranian people’s interests. In either scenario, his state of desperation is evident. Perhaps he is looking for another John Kerry, but it is doubtful he would find it in someone as unstable as Dianne Feinstein.

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