WASHINGTON – On the eve of the last presidential debate – focusing, of course, on foreign policy – the White House is flat-out denying there are any plans for one-on-one talks between the U.S. and Iran on its uranium enrichment program.
While WND broke a story this week quoting Iranian sources as saying a deal has already been brokered between high-ranking U.S. administration negotiators and a representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the New York Times followed up today with a story suggesting the U.S. and Iran were on the verge of opening one-on-one talks, the White House quickly denied the story.
The topic is sure to generate fireworks at Monday’s final debate.
Is there a secret deal on the table or not?
Reza Kahlili, a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray,” has been reporting for WND that Obama administration officials have already cut a deal with Iran that would end many of the sanctions against the Islamic Republic in exchange for the promise of a temporary halt to uranium enrichment.
While the New York Times reports Iranian officials insisting that talks wait until after the election so Tehran knows whom they will be negotiating with, WND sources say one of the enticements for Iran to announce a halt to enrichment now is to assist Barack Obama’s re-election chances. Mitt Romney is seen as less yielding than Obama and a president who will be quick to support Israel.
The New York Times story spotlights the political ramifications of the announcement on Romney, noting his opposition to any level of enrichment by Iran – a concession that experts say is likely to be part of any deal – and warning that his opposition to today’s announcement “could make him look as if he is willing to risk another American war in the Middle East without exhausting alternatives.”
Saturday night, the White House issued a strong denial that any negotiations are imminent.
National Security Council Spokesperson Tommy Vietor issued the following statement: “It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections. We continue to work with the P5+1 on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally. The president has made clear that he will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and we will do what we must to achieve that. It has always been our goal for sanctions to pressure Iran to come in line with its obligations. The onus is on the Iranians to do so, otherwise they will continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure.”
However, WND’s earlier exclusive report of the secret deal, negotiated in Doha, Qatar, revealed guarantees would ensure the regime’s right to peaceful enrichment, quickly remove many of the sanctions, accept that Iran’s nuclear program does not have a military dimension and relieve international pressure on the regime while it continues its nuclear program. Also, the U.S. would announce that the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists was the work of a foreign country, though Israel would not be named, to increase legal pressure on Israel.
WND’s source, who remains anonymous for security reasons and is highly placed in Iran’s regime, said that once Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, received a letter from Barack Obama guaranteeing the details of the agreement, he would authorize an announcement by Iran on a solution to the nuclear crisis before the U.S. presidential elections.
The source in Tehran said Khamenei has made it clear that unless he received Obama’s written guarantees, he would not begin the process, which would dramatically boost Obama’s re-election chances. If the guarantees are not given, Khamenei warned, Iran will speed up its nuclear program.
According to the Iranian source, a previous Obama letter to Khamenei indicated that it’s best for the regime not to give any motive to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, a message that was re-emphasized in the Qatar negotiations.
The Iranians, Morris said, may prefer another four years of Obama to the possibility of a Romney presidency.
“I think they feel that Romney would assist Israel in attacking them,” Morris said.
“The Iranians have a real history of intervening in U.S. elections,” Morris said in an appearance Saturday on Fox News. “Bear in mind that in 1980, they did not release the hostages until after the election because they wanted to defeat [President Carter].”
Michael Ledeen, a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a highly regarded expert on Iran, affirms the essence of the WND report: “One-on-one negotiations have been going on for years (most recently, according to my friend ‘Reza Kahlili,’ in Doha, where, he was told, Valerie Jarrett and other American officials recently traveled for the latest talks). The only news here is that the talks would no longer be secret. And the notion that only diplomacy can avert ‘a military strike on Iran’ is fanciful. There are at least two other ways: sanctions may compel the regime to stop its nuclear weapons program, or the Iranian people may find a way to overthrow the regime, thereby (perhaps, at least) rendering military action unnecessary.”
“So what is happening?” Ledeen asks. “The most likely explanation is that Obama is still desperately seeking his grand bargain, the one that would validate his (and the Nobel Committee’s) claim to be a talented peace maker. That deal is not available, because the Iranians don’t want it. But he wants something to show for his efforts, so he settled for a big nothingburger: an agreement to talk some more.”
Ledeen concludes that the story is likely to get bigger in the next few days – and possibly be a topic of Monday night’s debate.
Watch for WND correspondent Reza Kahlili’s upcoming appearance on “Fox and Friends.”
Media interested in interviewing Kahlili are encouraged to email email@example.com.