Media leaks often remind us that there can be no smoke without fire. The New York Times’ disclosure Saturday that Iran is agreeable to direct talks with the US is a classic instance. The fashion in which the Iran nuclear issue popped up in the US media just prior to the third and decisive debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on the foreign policy issues, underscores the entrenched opposition within the United States establishment at a high level to any form of negotiations between Washington and Tehran.
The NYT “leak” was expected to torpedo the back channel contacts that are obviously going on. Only a small group of people would have been privy to the back channels contacts, therefore, the sabotage attempt is to be credited to some real big fish in Washington. The White House lost no time to react, publicly disowning any intention that Obama would have to hold direct talks with Iran. The riposte is meant to take the sting out of the NYT story, which Romney would have readily picked up to allege that Obama is “appeasing” Iran.
But reading between the lines, White House also noted that it is agreeable to one-on-one negotiations “in principle.” What is wrong with direct US-Iran talks? Actually, direct talks will be the only way that the historic standoff can be ended.
The big question is whether Obama will kickstart talks with Iran is he gets re-elected. It is all but certain that he will. The NYT report isn’t far off the mark. Iran, too, offered a pro forma denial of the NYT report, but, again, FM Ali Akbar Salehi spoke in an upbeat tome hinting that the present pause is “time out” because of the presidential election in the US and once the election is out of the way, the political track is going to be activated. He specifically mentioned late November as the time by when talks will resume.
– October 21, 2012