Iran Smoke Signals

Apparently its a good week for big-name reporters getting anonymous scoops. The WaPo’s David Ignatius has his own today.

President Obama has signaled Iran that the United States would accept an Iranian civilian nuclear program if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei can back up his recent public claim that his nation ”œwill never pursue nuclear weapons.”

This verbal message was sent through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Khamenei last week. A few days before traveling to Iran, Erdogan had held a two-hour meeting with Obama in Seoul, in which they discussed what Erdogan would tell the ayatollah about the nuclear issue and Syria.

Obama advised Erdogan that the Iranians should realize that time is running out for a peaceful settlement and that Tehran should take advantage of the current window for negotiations. Obama didn’t specify whether Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium domestically as part of the civilian program the United States would endorse. That delicate issue evidently would be left for the negotiations that are supposed to start April 13, at a venue yet to be decided.

Erdogan is said to have replied that he would convey Obama’s views to Khamenei, and it’s believed he did so when he met the Iranian leader on Thursday. Erdogan also met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian officials during his visit.

Unlike Hersh, Agent Iggie doesn’t even acknowledge his anonymous benefactor – there’s no mention at all of a source in Ignatius’ piece, we’re just to take it as gospel that he wouldn’t just lie and make shit up. Still, it’s fairly obvious that this is definitely one of those “officially unofficial” leaks to the press that people like Ignatius have sold their souls for.

But more importantly – how was the signal received? Well, Ignatius himself notes that the Iranians are being grumpy about using Istanbul as a venue for the talks due to begin on the 14th, Iranian officials are criticizing former president Rafsanjani for suggesting talks with the US could be fuitful and Erdogan has slammed Iran as not being honest saying “The offers going round at the moment, Damascus or Baghdad, are a waste of time; it means it won’t happen, because they know the other side won’t come to Damascus or Baghdad”.

With Hilary Clinton already having warned Iran that this is its final chance before the “other options on the table” start dropping from US warplanes, things aren’t looking promising.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • The only reason they are saying stuff like “this is your last chance to negotiate” is so that they can cover their asses when they go to war by saying “we gave them a chance to negotiate and they didn’t take it.” This is such an elementary level ploy, it’s unbelievable to me that they would even try it. But worse, it will probably work.

    As for the Iranians, of course they already know it doesn’t matter how they respond to that. The US/Israel goal is to neutralize Iran as a regional power in the Middle East, nothing less, and certainly not to chat with them about their civilian sector energy policy. And neutralizing Iran is a military job, not a negotiation process.

    Also, here’s a neat trick that the war hawks and AIPAC know they can get mileage from: send Obama in as the “good cop” to Israel’s “bad cop”. Obama can parade in under the guise of being a liberal and supposedly trying to keep the peace. Of course it’s a ruse, as Obama’s record on national security issues puts him squarely in with the hawks.

    Lastly is the obvious political squeeze the ploy puts on Iran. Iran’s leaders cannot afford to be seen as kowtowing to Obama, so they can’t say Yes to his offer (of course Washington knew that before they made the offer, because it would totally screw up Washington if Iran suddenly actually made an about face on the issue). On the other hand, by declining to respond, they strengthen the administration’s case for going to war.

    Looks like Obama learned a few things about starting up a Middle east War from George W Bush (or rather, from W’s mistakes) after all. He learned
    1. scale down all your other ME conflicts before starting a big new one
    2. cover your tracks politically instead of using the Dumbya/Cheney Unlimited Hubris approach
    3. Don’t openly lie to the public – persuade them with diplomacy and political double-speak.

    What he did not learn: the folly of starting yet another big ME war.

  • …here. Rafsanjani’s piece was excerpted by a publication considered to have ties to Ali Larijani. A red line is being asserted here by the Supreme Leader and at least some of the senior leadership of the IRGC – only the Rahbar gets to determine the parameters of relations with the United States. The unspoken issue behind all of this is the struggle over the nature of the coming power structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran – moving forward, will it have a powerful Presidency or a weak one that is subordinated to the wishes of the Supreme Leader? Larijani is almost certain to be a candidate for the Presidency (I don’t think they formally declare for some time, but that’s just my recall) and based on what general knowledge I have right now (I haven’t really pursued the issue deeply) I would assess him as the most likely next President.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • Trend news, Azerbaijan

    Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said on Friday that only the Supreme Leader has the right to air views about holding negotiations with the United States, MNA reported.

    Making decisions on “the case of the U.S. falls within the authority of vali-e faqiha (supreme jurisprudent), and no person is in a position to express views in this regard and take action,” Khatami told worshippers in Tehran.

    “I believe those who think that we should negotiate with the leading (member) of the (global) arrogance, namely the U.S., either have a simplistic view or have been intimidated,” he stated.

    That last sentence is omminous, isn’t it?

  • My sense of it is that we’re in a place where intelligence intelligence professionals don’t like to be. The guy that has the answers is Ali Khamenei, and I don’t think that anyone external to his immediate group – even inside Iran – have a lot of sense as to what he’s thinking here. Me, I think that he has more options and a more solid position now than he did prior to the elections and a much more solid position than in the aftermath of the Presidential election.

    For me a key analytical issue is the nature of Khamenei’s relationship with predominant factions of the IRGC: is it in large part subordinate to his command or does it represent a rising potential competing power centre that could threaten the centrality of the office of the Supreme Leader? If it is the former, then things are very dependent on Khamenei’s perception of how far he can push things and what his true intentions are. If it is the latter (I tend to lean to this interpretation), we may see him take actions that seek to limit the power of the IRGC – “reining them in” on the nuclear / procurement file might be an excellent tactic. One of the wonderful things about “going to China” moments is that you can shift the playing field under your competitors’ feet at a single stroke.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • ” … the leading (member) of the (global) arrogance, namely the U.S.” This is quite revealing, actually. The US might want to show some humility if it wishes to achieve the desired results in the political arena.


    “OTP – Occupy The Patriarchy” ~ me

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