Murphy’s Iran talks

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Chris Murphy logically would take opportunities to meet with foreign leaders. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the Connecticut Democrat’s recent meeting with Iran’s foreign affairs minister violates the obscure Logan Act is overwrought.

The act, dating back 220 years, prohibits U.S. citizens from “any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government” in “relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.”

No one has been convicted of violating it, ever. And a senator, serving on Foreign Relations, is not just any citizen.

Murphy met with Mohammad Javad Zarif a week ago while attending the Munich Security Conference. Earlier in the same trip, in a meeting that also included Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, Murphy sat down with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The meeting with Zarif took the administration by surprise, Trump indicating he learned about it from press reports. Murphy should have had the courtesy of passing his plans by the State Department and making sure he had clarity on the administration’s policy positions concerning Iran, as much as that is possible from a White House not known for clarity in foreign policy strategy.

Still, it is a stretch to try to make a big controversy of the matter. Murphy said he inquired about Iran’s support for Houthi rebels in Yemen’s civil war, which has become a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Murphy has long been outspoken about the United States using its influence with Saudi Arabia to stem the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

He said he also spoke with Zarif about the potential for more conflict in the wake of Iranian missile attacks Jan. 7, which struck two bases housing U.S. military personnel, leaving dozens of U.S. troops with traumatic brain injuries. Iran launched the attacks in retaliation for the United States' killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani the week before.

The U.S. cannot have multiple officials pursuing multiple foreign policies. Murphy acknowledged as much, saying "(I) cannot conduct diplomacy on behalf of the whole of the U.S. government, and I don't pretend to be in a position to do so."

There is no evidence Murphy stepped over any policy boundaries. But going forward, better coordination is called for with such trips.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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