JERUSALEM – President Obama has been engaged in secret, back-channel talks with Iran in which he informed Tehran’s leaders he is completely opposed to any Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to informed Middle Eastern officials.

The officials told WND the behind-the-scenes talks aim to secure a guarantee from Iran that it will not retaliate against the U.S. in the event of any Israeli military strike, the officials said.

It was unclear what, if anything, Obama offered Iran in exchange for a pledge against targeting U.S. installations, including in the Gulf.

The State Department did not immediately return a WND request seeking comment on the alleged back-door talks.

In a wide-ranging interview March 9 with Al-Monitor, an Arab website founded in the wake of the Middle East revolutions, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel hinted that private approaches to Iran were already occurring.

Hagel is co-chairman of Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board. While he was in the Senate he served on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Al-Monitor’s Washington correspondent, Barbara Slavin, interviewed Hagel at Georgetown University, where he teaches a weekly class.

Slavin asked Hagel: “Do you know if there any private approaches going on, or is it all through the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany?

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Hagel replied, “I know more than I can tell you; there may be. I hope. I don’t see any other way around this. Because you can’t deal with something … as explosive as this is out in the public.”

According to the Middle East officials speaking to WND, political officials at the Pentagon, coordinating with the White House, have repeatedly asked Israel not to strike Iran.

According to the officials, who are familiar with the talks, the Pentagon has made the following arguments to Israel about why a strike at this time is unnecessary:

  • An Israeli strike will not be able to totally destroy Iran’s nuclear project, which is spread out to multiple sites, thus making a successful attack more difficult.
  • Iran can rebuild its nuclear infrastructure in a matter of a few years.
  • Iran’s nuclear project is currently based on uranium and not the more weaponizable plutonium, giving Israel more time to allow sanctions to work.
  • Intelligence agencies allegedly operating inside Iran working to slow Iran’s nuclear progress have had enough success to buy more time.

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