The Iranians had a laugh at the United States’ expense when Secretary of State John Kerry’s plane broke down on Thursday as he sought to return to Washington after high-level talks here on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
“So it is not just our planes,” Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, told a reporter from Al Monitor, a news site that covers the Middle East.
Iran’s aviation industry has been subjected to economic sanctions, which has taken a toll on Iran’s aging fleet of civilian airliners. So Zarif appeared to enjoy the irony.
It was not the first time that Kerry’s plane had been grounded. Kerry was forced to take a commercial flight home from Honolulu in August after his plane broke down as a result of an electrical problem. Kerry’s plane also broke down in January when he was in Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum at Davos.
The US State Department says that Kerry has visited 55 countries, had 249 travel days and has flown 566,218 miles since he became secretary of state. So the Air Force aircraft he travels in are getting a lot of wear.
The problem this time was with a fuel tank, prompting Kerry to rush to the airport on Thursday morning for a commercial flight to Washington. Iranian officials appeared surprised that the problem had still not been fixed when they arrived at the airport on Thursday afternoon for their flight to Tehran.
Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, acknowledged that the breakdowns had posed a complication for Kerry.
“Secretary Kerry himself was quick to point out that if the hardest thing that happens in a given day is that you have to fly commercial, your life is pretty good,” she said. “But on a practical basis, for any secretary of state every minute of their day is scheduled. There is not a flight where Secretary Kerry isn’t calling in via secure phone to an interagency meeting or receiving sensitive national security information, or reading classified information or briefings.”
She added, “None of that is possible when any secretary of state is flying on a commercial plane without secure communications with hundreds of people.”
— New York Times News Service