An attempt is made to share the truth regarding issues concerning Israel and her right to exist as a Jewish nation. This blog has expanded to present information about radical Islam and its potential impact upon Israel and the West. Yes, I do mix in a bit of opinion from time to time.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Covert US talks facilitate deal
As nuclear deal is announced between Iran, world powers, it
is further revealed US, Iran secretly engaged in diplomatic talks over past
year, paving way for historic Geneva agreement
The United States and Iran
secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over
the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama
administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early
Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran's nuclear program, The
Associated Press has learned.
The discussions were kept hidden even from America's closest friends,
including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago,
and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so
quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and
But the secrecy of the talks may also explain some of the
tensions between the US and France, which earlier this month balked at a
proposed deal, and with Israel, which is furious about the agreement
and has angrily denounced the diplomatic outreach to Tehran.
President Barack Obama personally authorized the talks as part
of his effort – promised in his first inaugural address – to reach out
to a country the State Department designates as the world's most active
state sponsor of terrorism.
The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and
elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP
learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake
Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden's top foreign policy adviser, have
met at least five times with Iranian officials.
The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran's reform-minded President Hassan Rohani
was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later
formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva among the United States,
Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran, said three senior
administration officials. All spoke only on condition of anonymity
because they were not authorized to discuss by name the highly sensitive
The AP was tipped to the first US-Iranian meeting in March
shortly after it occurred, but the White House and State Department
disputed elements of the account and the AP could not confirm the
meeting. The AP learned of further indications of secret diplomacy in
the fall and pressed the White House and other officials further. As the
Geneva talks appeared to be reaching their conclusion, senior
administration officials confirmed to the AP the details of the
US President Barack Obama (Photo: AP)
Geneva deal provides Iran with about $7 billion in relief from
international sanctions in exchange for Iranian curbs on uranium
enrichment and other nuclear activity. All parties pledged to work
toward a final accord next year that would remove remaining suspicions
in the West that Tehran is trying to assemble an atomic weapons arsenal.
Iran insists its nuclear interest is only in peaceful energy production and medical research.
The diplomatic gamble with Iran, if the interim agreement holds
up and leads to a final pact preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear
weapons, could avert years of threats of US or Israeli military
intervention. It could also prove a turning point in decades of
hostility between Washington and Tehran – and become a crowning foreign
policy achievement of Obama's presidency.
But if the deal collapses, or if Iran covertly races ahead with
development of a nuclear weapon, Obama will face the consequences of
failure, both at home and abroad. His gamble opens him to criticism that
he has left Israel
vulnerable to a country bent on its destruction and that he has made a deal with a state sponsor of terrorism.
The US and Iran cut off diplomatic ties in 1979 after the
Islamic Revolution and the storming of the US Embassy in Tehran, where
52 Americans were held hostage for more than a year. But Obama has
expressed willingness since becoming president to meet with the Iranians
At the president's direction, the United States began a
tentative outreach shortly after his inauguration in January 2009. Obama
and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, exchanged letters,
but the engagement yielded no results.
That outreach was hampered by Iran's hardline former president,
Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, whose re-election in a disputed vote in June of
that year led to a violent crackdown on opposition protesters. The next
month, relations seemed at another low when Iran detained three American
hikers who had strayed across the Iranian border from Iraq.
Ironically, efforts to win the release of the hikers turned out
to be instrumental in making the clandestine diplomacy possible.
Oman's Sultan Qaboos was a key player, facilitating the eventual
release of the hikers – the last two of whom returned to the United
States in 2011 – and then offering himself as a mediator for a US-Iran
rapprochement. The secret informal discussions between mid-level
officials in Washington and Tehran began.
Officials described those early contacts as exploratory
discussions focused on the logistics of setting up higher-level talks.
The discussions happened through numerous channels, officials said,
including face-to-face talks at undisclosed locations. They included
exchanges between then US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice,
now Obama's national security adviser, and Iran's envoy to the world
body, the officials said. National Security Council aide Puneet Talwar
was also involved, the officials said.
Iranian leaders Khamenei, Rohani (Photo: AP)
talks took on added weight eight months ago, when Obama dispatched the
deputy secretary of state Burns, the top aide Sullivan and five other
officials to meet with their Iranian counterparts in the Omani capital
of Muscat. Obama dispatched the group shortly after the six powers
opened a new round of nuclear talks with Iran in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in
At the time, those main nuclear negotiations were making little
progress, and the Iranians had little interest in holding bilateral
talks with the United States on the sidelines of the meeting out of fear
that the discussions would become public, the US officials said.
So, with the assistance of Sultan Qaboos, officials in both
countries began quietly making plans to meet in Oman. Burns, Sullivan
and a small team of US technical experts arrived on a military plane in
mid-March for the meeting with the Iranians.
The senior administration officials who spoke to the AP would
not say who Burns and Sullivan met with but characterized the Iranian
attendees as career diplomats, national security aides and experts on
the nuclear issue who were likely to remain key players even after the
country's elections in the summer.
The goal on the American side, the US officials said, was simply
at that point to see if the US and Iran could successfully arrange
bilateral talks – a low bar that underscored the sour state of relations
between the two nations.
Beyond nuclear issues, the officials said the US team at the
March Oman meeting also raised concerns about Iranian involvement in Syria,
Tehran's threats to close the strategically important Strait of Hormuz
and the status of Robert Levinson, a missing former FBI agent who the
US believes was abducted in Iran, as well as two other Americans
detained in the country.
Hoping to keep the channel open, Secretary of State John Kerry
then visited Oman in May on a trip ostensibly to push a military deal
with the sultanate but secretly focused on maintaining that country's
key mediation role, particularly after the Iranian election scheduled
for the next month, the officials said.
Rohani's election in June on a platform of easing sanctions
crippling Iran's economy and stated willingness to engage with the West
gave a new spark to the US effort, the officials said.
Two secret meetings were organized immediately after Rohani took
office in August, with the specific goal of advancing the stalled
nuclear talks with world powers. Another pair of meetings took place in
Burns and Sullivan led the US delegation at each of those
sessions, and were joined at the final secret meeting by chief US
nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman.
The Iranian delegation was a mix of officials the Americans had
met in March in Oman and others who were new to the talks,
administration officials said. All of the Iranians were fluent English
US officials said the meetings happened in multiple locations,
but would not confirm the exact spots, saying they did not want to
jeopardize their ability to use the same locations in the future. But at
least some of the talks are believed to have taken place in Oman.
The private meetings coincided with a public easing of
US-Iranian discord. In early August, Obama sent Rohani a letter
congratulating him on his election. The Iranian leader's response was
viewed positively by the White House, which quickly laid the groundwork
for the additional secret talks. The US officials said they were
convinced that the outreach had the blessing of Ayatollah Khameni, but
would not elaborate.
As negotiators continued to talk behind the scenes, public
speculation swirled over a possible meeting between Obama and Rohani on
the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, which both attended in
September in New York. Burns and Sullivan sought to arrange face-to-face
talks, but the meeting never happened largely due to Iranian concerns,
the officials said. Two days later, though, Obama and Rohani spoke by
phone - the first direct contact between a US and Iranian leader in more
than 30 years.
It was only after that Obama-Rohani phone call that the US began
informing allies of the secret talks with Iran, the US officials said.
Obama handled the most sensitive conversation himself, briefing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
during a Sept. 30 meeting at the White House. He informed Netanyahu
only about the two summer meetings, not the March talks, in keeping with
the White House's promise only to tell allies about any discussions
with Iran that were substantive.
The US officials would not describe Netanyahu's reaction. But
the next day, he delivered his General Assembly speech, blasting Rohani
as a "wolf in sheep's clothing" and warning the US against mistaking a
change in Iran's tone with an actual change in nuclear ambitions. The
Israeli leader has subsequently denounced the potential nuclear
agreement as the "deal of the century" for Iran.
After telling Netanyahu about the secret talks, the United
States then briefed the other members of the six-nation negotiating
team, the US officials said.
The last secret gatherings between the US and Iran took place shortly after the General Assembly, according to the officials.
There, the deal finally reached by the parties on Sunday began to take its final shape.
this month's larger
formal nuclear negotiations between world powers
and Iran in Geneva, Burns and Sullivan showed up as well, but the State
Department went to great lengths to conceal their involvement, leaving
their names off of the official delegation list.
They were housed at a different hotel than the rest of the team, used
back entrances to come and go from meeting venues and were whisked into
negotiating sessions from service elevators or unused corridors only
after photographers left.