The New York Times dropped a big leak over the weekend, guaranteed to finds its way into the presidential debate tomorrow night on foreign policy. And if true, the report signifies more daylight between the Obama Administration and Israel than hardliners are comfortable with.
According to anonymous Obama administration officials, the US and Iran have agreed to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program after the elections. Iranian officials have insisted on that because they want to know “with whom they would be negotiating.”
White House spokesperson Tommy Vietor denied the US had made a “final” agreement with Iran over the meetings but said the administration was open to them and stated “from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally.”
The administration, officials said, has begun an internal review at the State Department, the White House and the Pentagon to determine what the United States’ negotiating stance should be, and what it would put in any offer. One option under consideration is “more for more” — more restrictions on Iran’s enrichment activities in return for more easing of sanctions.
This is great news. Iran’s beef all along has been the refusal of the U.S. to offer any easing of sanctions for Iran’s acceptance of enrichment limitations. As I reported back in June in All eyes on Moscow:
In Baghdad, Iran expressed the hope that its proposals would be met with the principle of reciprocity: if they agreed to limit enrichment, the sanctions would be eased. Talib Mahdi, a member of the Iranian delegation in Baghdad stated Iran would accept a proposal limiting enrichment to 5% if the sanctions were eased. But Iran’s bottom line is recognition of a right to enrichment, and they are not even interested in discussing further rounds of negotiations without this recognition.
Michael Oren sounds displeased:
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 weapons program.”
“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.”
Israel doesn’t want the U.S. in direct negotiations with Iran, that’s as clear as daylight on a crisp autumn day.