Rudy Giuliani was present at a rally against the Iranian regime in Warsaw on Wednesday at the behest of a controversial group once referred to by Washington as a terrorist organization and without the approval of the Trump administration.
Giuliani, who serves as Donald Trump's personal advocate, said he participated in the demonstration at the invitation of the Iranian resistance group Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), which was on the US Department of State terrorist list until 2012.
The former mayor of New York has represented MEK for eleven years, but his work for the group has been re-examined since he assumed a formal role in Mr. Trump's legal department in April. He admitted to giving a paid speech to the group in May and appeared at a MEK event outside of Paris in July.
Mr Giuliani admitted that he did not inform the administration of his plans to attend the rally in Warsaw. When asked if he had told Mr. Trump, Mr. Giuliani said, "I've done that before and he saw it. I do not know that he knows I'm here now. When asked if he would be paid, Giuliani said his arrangements with the organizers were confidential.
His presence in Warsaw, where US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attend a conference on Middle East affairs, surprised and annoyed some officials at the gathering who were considered to be trying to reach a broad consensus to find regional questions.
At his rally Giuliani called for an end to the Iranian regime. He argued that a regional peace plan requires a "fundamental change in the theocratic dictatorship in Iran."
"It must end quickly and end," said Giuliani in front of several hundred people who wave Iranian flags and balloons with slogans such as "Free Iran" and "regime change" outside the Polish football stadium.
"Let's remind everyone that there is an almost complete consensus that the Ayatollah's regime is the main state sponsor of terrorism, not just in the Middle East, but in the world."
Over the past year, policy makers in the EU and US have grappled with how Iran can be prevented from developing nuclear capacity. Mr. Trump withdrew from an international agreement aimed at curbing Tehran last year and instead imposed sanctions, but formally abandoned the call for regime change. The EU states are trying to keep the original deal afloat.
The conference in Warsaw – to which Iran was not invited – has become a lightning rod for such disagreements. It was initially charged by the US officials as an Iranian-oriented event, but was then expanded to include regional issues after some guests expressed their reservations about the focus.
The White House declined to comment on Mr Giuliani's presence in Warsaw.
Mr. Trump has chosen a much tougher line in Iran than his predecessor Barack Obama. In addition to withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal, his officials have regularly supported Iranian citizens to protest against the Islamic regime.
Senior officials, including Mr Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, have repeatedly rejected proposals that the US is demanding a smooth change of regime, saying that the country's future is a matter for the Iranian people.
Mr. Bolton said this week that the Iranian regime has produced 40 years of "failure" since the revolution that brought the ayatollahs to power.
"Now it is up to the Iranian regime to change its behavior, and ultimately it is up to the Iranian people to determine the direction of their country," Mr Bolton tweeted this week. "The US will support the will of the Iranian people and stand behind them to ensure their voices are heard."
In addition to Mr Pence and Mr Pompeo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will take part in the event, but is expected to attract fewer senior officials from Europe. Mr Giuliani said he was a private citizen in Warsaw and suggested that his presence in Warsaw undermines US government diplomacy.
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said last week that the conference was not focused on one country but dedicated to "horizontal issues such as the financing of terrorism, hybrid threats or energy security".
Asked whether his presence in Warsaw undermined US and Polish diplomacy, Giuliani told reporters: "I think our government rightly believes that you can change Iran's policies. If that succeeds, I would be the happiest man imaginable. [But] I do not understand how a group of manic religious fanatics will ever turn into the leaders of a democratic government. It just does not make sense to me.
"Yes, there is a small difference between me and the Americans involved and the view of Obama and now the Trump administration. We see the same goal, we only see different ways to get there. "