The Murdoch press is attempting to twist recent statements by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to suggest that former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, now the White House’s special climate envoy, had communicated secrets to Iran regarding attacks by Israel against Iranian targets in the Syrian civil war.
The whole thing doesn’t make any sense, though — because Israeli attacks against Iranian targets in Syria have been publicly known and reported in the news media for years.
News sources outside Iran such as The New York Times, Reuters, and Al Jazeera had reported on Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in 2013. Such reports continued in 2018 — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even publicly acknowledged the strikes — and also to this very day. This isn’t some closely guarded international secret.
The New York Times and Iran International, a Persian-language TV channel based in the United Kingdom, reported on a leaked audio of an unpublished interview Zarif conducted in March with an Iranian journalist, in which he discussed his frustrations with the country’s military steering foreign policy.
During the conversation, Zarif said that the military commanders had kept him in the dark on a number of crucial events. “It was former US Foreign Secretary John Kerry who told me Israel had launched more than 200 attacks on Iranian forces in Syria,” Zarif said, instead of learning this from his own government — a claim that Iran International characterized as “not very credible.”
But that’s not how the Murdoch press is telling it. Fox News ran a headline claiming that Kerry told Zarif “about Israeli covert operations,” while Fox’s homepage carried feature headlines accusing Kerry of “‘ratting out’ allies” and being “the real colluder.”
The label of “the real colluder” served multiple purposes here. It subtly furthered Fox’s yearslong agenda of trying to deny the role that Russia played in assisting former President Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016. (Kerry is the “real colluder” in this telling — not Trump.)
The article also claimed that Kerry has “previously been accused of colluding with Iranian leaders to undermine the Trump administration.” This referred to Kerry’s efforts in 2018 to salvage the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that Trump had gotten the U.S. out of. However, those discussions with the leaders of many different countries — not just with Zarif — are also public knowledge.
And now, Fox News contributor and former Bush administration press secretary Ari Fleischer is attempting a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose spin on the whole situation — seeking to take down both Kerry from his climate role and the Biden administration’s hopes to revive the nuclear deal.
Fox’s corporate cousin the New York Post has upped the rhetorical ante, claiming that Kerry had told Zarif “about over 200 covert Israeli attacks on Iranian interests in Syria during former President Donald Trump’s administration.” The original reports in both The New York Times and Iran International were ambiguous on when this alleged discussion would have occurred, going simply by the quote from Zarif. And even the Fox News write-up had just claimed that the exchange would have taken place while Kerry was secretary of state under President Barack Obama.
Fox host Sean Hannity’s personal website also posted a headline accusing Kerry of “TIES TO TEHRAN,” with the post itself linking back to Fox News. Neither Fox, the New York Post, or Hannity seemed to have caught on to the obvious point that the Iranian government would have already been aware that Israel was attacking them in Syria — after all, everyone else was.