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Report: United States, Iran agree to one-on-one nuclear talks (Update: WH Denies)
Posted by The Agonist on October 20th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

So says the New York Times (but see the update below):

The United States and Iran have agreed for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.

Iranian officials have insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election, a senior administration official said, telling their American counterparts that they want to know with whom they would be negotiating.

News of the agreement — a result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term — comes at a critical moment in the presidential contest, just two weeks before Election Day and the weekend before the final debate, which is to focus on national security and foreign policy.

That’s going to make for an interesting Monday debate. Obama can fairly say his tactic of pushing harsh sanctions has brought Iran to the table, cap in hand, while challenging Romney to say whether he’d go forward with the talks if elected. If Romney says he wouldn’t, he’s effectively saying it’s war if he’s elected.

“It would be unconscionable to go to war if we haven’t had such discussions,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who led negotiations with Iran as under secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration.

Iran’s nuclear program “is the most difficult national security issue facing the United States,” Mr. Burns said, adding: “While we should preserve the use of force as a last resort, negotiating first with Iran makes sense. What are we going to do instead? Drive straight into a brick wall called war in 2013, and not try to talk to them?”

Over to Mitt, and the necon advisors who are pulling his strings, to say whether he’d bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. That’s certainly the hawkish Israeli government’s plan. According to the NYT,

when asked for a response on Saturday, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren, said the administration had not informed Israel, and that the Israeli government feared Iran would use new talks to “advance their nuclear weaponsprogram.”

“We do not think Iran should be rewarded with direct talks,” Mr. Oren said, “rather that sanctions and all other possible pressures on Iran must be increased.”

Where ‘all possible pressures” means pre-emptive strikes despite their own military saying those would be the wrong move to make, plunging the entire region into a dangerously large war.

Nice October Surprise there, Mr. Obama.

Update: Despite there being an impressive set of names on the NYT byline for this story – Helene Cooper, Mark Landler and David Sanger - the BBC’s Kim Ghattas just tweeted:

Senior US official tells BBC no agreement with Iran on direct negotiations after elex, dismisses NYT story.

— Kim Ghattas (@BBCKimGhattas) October 20, 2012

While Reuters reports that the White House refused to comment. So as of now, we’re not sure if this report is the real deal or not.

Update 2: Looks like the NYT report is simply false – major egg on their faces.

Also, NSC spox just put out statement saying: not true US Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after US elex

— Kim Ghattas (@BBCKimGhattas) October 20, 2012

And:

WH on NYT report: “It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections

— Steve Brusk (@stevebruskCNN) October 20, 2012

I should have known better than to trust at face value anything on Iran that David “Judy in drag” Sanger had a hand in…

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