Iranian legislator Ali Motahari claimed on Wednesday that President Obama called for direct talks in a secret letter sent last week to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Motahari said that the first part of the letter warned that if Iran closed the Strait of Hormuz, it would cross a red line that would trigger U.S. military action, and the second part offered to start direct talks with Tehran.
Hojjatoleslam Hossein Ebrahimi, the deputy chairman of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said on Wednesday that “Obama’s letter indicates that the United States has become afraid of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s might and has realized the point that an arrogant spirit is of no use, and therefore, he has softened his tone when speaking about the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The Administration denied that President Obama had sent a letter and said that the message was delivered through diplomatic channels. Administration officials also denied that the message called for secret talks, saying that it offered a channel for communications that could be used in a crisis.
Although Iranian officials undoubtedly have mischaracterized the contents of the diplomatic message for their own propaganda purposes, the Administration remains committed to its failed diplomatic engagement strategy for resolving the nuclear impasse with Iran. Tehran has hinted that it would like to resume talks with the P5&1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) on the nuclear issue.
The last round of talks collapsed after one day when Iran refused to negotiate until after sanctions were lifted. Tehran sees diplomatic talks as a means of stalling further sanctions and buying time to complete its nuclear program. It repeatedly has used this “rope-a-dope” strategy to try to defuse the momentum for impending sanctions.
Soon we can expect hopeful announcements that the P5&1 talks have been revived. The Obama Administration, like Charlie Brown, will be roped in to trying to kick the football forward. Expect Iran, like Lucy, to foil Obama’s earnest efforts to engage diplomatically by pulling the football away at the last moment.