The Obama administration’s annual gift haul in 2015 included trinkets from friendly allies — as well as two new “frenemies”: Iran and Cuba.
The State Department published its disclosure of gifts to U.S. officials from foreign government sources in the Federal Register on Wednesday, and the list for the first time included offerings from Havana and Tehran. The year 2015 is the latest accounting available.
That’s the year when the U.S. removed Cuba as a state sponsor of terror before the two countries restored diplomatic relations. Iran remains on the terror sponsor list, but ties between the two countries warmed somewhat following negotiations and implementation of an international nuclear deal.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated on the nuclear agreement with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, received a book from Mr. Zarif valued at $400, according to the annual accounting. The disclosure said the volume was retained by the government for official display. Former Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, a lead negotiator in the nuclear talks, also received gifts from Iranian counterparts.
Rules allow U.S. officials to accept gifts valued at more than $375 only if refusing them would cause embarrassment to the offering government or to the U.S. Such gifts must be reported and transferred to the government, under U.S. rules. Gifts from foreign governments to U.S. officials less than $375 in value don’t have to be reported or transferred. Gifts greater than $20 in value are not allowed from any source other than foreign governments.
In 2015, Mr. Obama received an assortment of gifts from his Cuban counterpart, President Raul Castro, including cigars, Cuban music, a Guyabera shirt, four bottles of spirits, a humidor and some perfume.
As part of the warming relations with Cuba, Mr. Obama met with Mr. Castro in Panama in 2015 and made a historic trip to Cuba in March 2016.
Among the inventory of artwork, linens and books were a bronze sculpture to Mr. Obama from Saudi Arabian King Salman, valued at more than $500,000; a basket of chocolates to First Lady Michelle Obama from Moroccan officials valued at more than $800; and a set of bone china cups presented to the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency — from an undisclosed foreign donor.
Mr. Kerry received a gift from his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov when he went to Sochi in 2015, though it wasn’t listed in the federal register because it was valued at less than $375.
Mr. Lavrov presented Mr. Kerry with a Victory Day shirt and two gift bags of potatoes and tomatoes. Russia had celebrated the 70th anniversary of Victory over Europe day the week before and the U.S. and several of its allies didn’t send high level delegations in a what was seen at the time as a snub. The potatoes echoed a gift of Idaho potatoes Mr. Kerry had previously given Mr. Lavrov.