Politico revealed late Thursday, May 23, that the Democratic senator’s team said she had dinner with Zarif when he was in the country “a few weeks ago.”
Feinstein’s team said that the dinner had been “arranged in consultation with the State Department.”
“The office was in touch with State in advance of the meeting to let them know it was happening and to get an update on U.S.-Iran activity,” her office said.
Last week, Politico’s Playbook had reported that Feinstein was spotted walking around the Capitol with Zarif’s contact information pulled up on her phone. According to Playbook, they’d noticed it in an elevator.
“It’s a bit unusual that Feinstein, the former chair and vice chair of the Intelligence Committee and a member of the Senate minority, is dining with the foreign minister of an adversary,” Politico commented.
“We have reached out to the White House to see if they had anything to say about this, and they did not respond to two emails seeking comment.”
Feinstein is currently a Democratic member of the Senate, and has served as the former chair and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Zarif had worked with former Secretary of State John Kerry on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration.
President Donald Trump in April accused Kerry of advising Iran and said he should be prosecuted for violating the Logan Act, a 1799 law that criminalizes unauthorized negotiations with foreign governments in dispute with the United States. Only two people have been indicted for violating the act, one in 1802 and the other in 1852.
The meeting of the Feinstein and Zarif comes at a time of increasing tension between the United States and the Islamic regime. In early May this year, the Trump administration ordered an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force, and later an assault ship and more defence missiles, to the Middle East in response to increased threats of possible operations against U.S. forces in the region by Iran.
Referring to the above U.S. military moves, Zarif this week said that the United States is playing a “dangerous game.”
“Extreme prudence is required and the United States is playing a very, very dangerous game,” he told CNN in an interview broadcast on May 21.
Earlier this month, the United States suspected that Iran was behind attacks on two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and two other vessels. Satellite images revealed that Iran had loaded small ships with fully-assembled missiles. The find raised concerns that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was planning to strike the United States or its allies in the Persian Gulf.
On May 20, Trump said on Twitter that any fight would be “the official end of Iran.”
If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
Since then, Iran has reportedly removed missiles from some small ships.
Increasing Pressure on Iran
Trump has been increasing pressure on Iran’s leaders since May 2018, when he quit the Iran nuclear deal and signed an Executive Order to reimpose tight sanctions on Iran previously lifted as a part of the deal. The sanctions are an effort to force the Islamic regime to change a plethora of activities the administration finds unacceptable.
“We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction,” Trump said at the time. “America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail.”
The Trump administration demands that Iran halts not only its nuclear technology development, but also its ballistic missile program, support for terrorists and militias in the region, and other destabilizing activities.
In April, Trump announced he would designate Iran’s IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. The IRGC is a branch of the Iranian military controlled by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The branch does not respond to the country’s quasi-democratically elected government.
Trump also announced in April that the administration won’t renew waivers from the sanctions for countries still importing Iranian oil, in order to completely shut down Iranian oil exports, which are a lifeline of the regime.
The Epoch Times’ reporter Petr Svab and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report