Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Barack Obama may be old-fashioned pen-pals, writing secret snail-mail letters to each other.
On Friday, The Wall Street Journal disclosed that Khamenei responded to overtures from Obama with a “secret letter,” amid the ongoing nuclear talks.
The Journal cited an Iranian diplomat who said the Iranian cleric had indeed written to the president over the past few weeks. Obama apparently started the correspondence last October.
Interestingly, the deadline for progress on nuclear talks with Iran ends on March 23, but the not-so-secret letters do not directly address the nuclear issue, but rather the idea of Iran cooperating in the fight with ISIS.
The linkage to the nuclear issue is that any cooperation is contingent on an agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. With just over one month remaining until the negotiation deadline, it is assumed that more sanctions are on the table if negotiations are unsuccessful.
Apparently Khamenei’s letter was “respectful” but noncommittal; WSJ quoted the diplomat as saying. Both the White House and the Iranian mission at the United Nations declined to comment on the reports. Whether Khamenei accepts a compromise in the nuclear talks may depend on how much the sanctions hurt them before and how much more they can take, while still trying to get their nuclear weapon. (which they say they are not building)
Khamenei’s correspondence with Obama is the clearest message yet the Iranians may consider a settlement of the nuclear question. It could be that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is prepared to negotiate with the West, a stance vehemently opposed by Iran’s hardliners. Khamenei and Rouhani do not agree with each other.
The nuclear talks were being negotiated by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. They were instigated to ease Western concerns that Tehran could pursue a covert nuclear weapons program.
If an agreement can be reached, it is assumed the severe sanctions on Iran will be eased. Israel will not be happy about that, because they do not trust the Iranians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to address the U.S. Congress March 3rd on the subject of Iran and its nuclear ambitions. The White House has asked Democrats to boycott the address, and many have already said they will not attend, including Joe Biden, who will be traveling..
Negotiators had set a June 30 final deadline for an accord. However, Western officials have said they aim to agree on the substance of such a deal by March 23rd. Netanyahu has vowed “to foil this bad and dangerous agreement.”
The Obama administration may not care, as long as they get some kind of agreement. We know they don’t care about Iran’s actions killing off Iranian dissidents in the badly named Camp Liberty in Iraq.