The message? "Don't take Trump's bait. Stay calm."
Conversations between former Obama officials and Iranian government officials have been ongoing since November 2016. Zarif, who visits the U.S. every year for the U.N. General Assembly in New York, usually meets with lawmakers, think tanks, journalists, and former officials when he is in town.
But the recent round of conversations, which took place over the phone and in person over the last two months, came as lines of communication between the U.S. and Iran, through intermediaries in Europe and elsewhere, deteriorated. -Daily Beast
"It's not just about what they were saying to the Iranians," an aide told the Beast. "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 administrationjust 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."
In September, former Secretary of State John Kerry admitted to meeting with Zarif "three or four times" since Donald Trump took office, a move which drew condemnation from conservatives who said Kerry was "coaching" the Iranian FM on how to deal with the White House.