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In Monday night’s presidential debate, President Obama again denied reports in “newspapers” but later contradicted himself and admitted to the possibility of bilateral meetings with Iran.
In the heat of the moment and in response to Gov. Mitt Romney’s criticism of his handling of Iran’s nuclear program, the president said, “I’m pleased that you now are endorsing our policy of applying diplomatic pressure and potentially having bilateral discussions with the Iranians to end their nuclear program.”
Mark Fitzpatrick, a former State Department expert on proliferation and now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, stated that, “I have been hearing for some time that they had been having private discussions, and now it is starting to become public.”
As reported on Oct. 4 and again on Oct. 18, a three-person delegation representing the Obama administration secretly met with their Iranian counterparts about Oct. 1 in Doha, Qatar.
The source who provided details of that meeting and who remains anonymous for security reasons because he is highly placed in Iran’s regime, added that after the WND revelation of the secret meeting, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was incensed.
The Iranian supreme leader demanded the Americans explain about the leak, which prompted the White House to leak a soft version of the story to the New York Times and deny the facts.
With that, the source said, the Obama administration tried damage control, first by indicating that the story revolved around an agreement for after the elections so no pre-election political motive could be ascribed, and second to ease the mind of the Islamic regime’s leaders about any leaks on the actual event.
According to the source, in the past five months, four meetings were held in the U.S. with the Islamic regime’s surrogates (two of whom have green cards and travel to America routinely) to hash out what was to be discussed at the Qatar meeting. The source identified Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama adviser, as the head of the U.S. effort to engage Iran.
The Qatar agreement would have Iran announce a partial halt to enrichment, ensure the regime’s right to peaceful enrichment, quickly remove much of the sanctions, accept that Iran’s nuclear program does not have a military dimension, and relieve international pressure on the regime while it continues its nuclear program.
During Monday night's debate in Florida, two weeks before what is expected to be a close election, Obama dismissed a New York Times report over the weekend that the US and Iran were exploring the possibility of holding direct bilateral nuclear negotiations after the election. But a few minutes later, he appeared to contradict himself, in what was possibly an unguarded remark made out of irritation that Romney had taken to echoing many of his administration's policies and presenting them as his own.
"I'm pleased that you now are endorsing our policy of applying diplomatic pressure and potentially having bilateral discussions with the Iranians to end their nuclear programme," he said, although Romney had made no mention of such discussions.
While the White House has rejected the New York Times report, it has not specifically denied that American and Iranian officials have been holding secret meetings in parallel to the public multilateral negotiations, since soon after Obama came to office in 2009.
It is not at all clear whether Romney would enter such talks without a full policy review, and his close relationship with the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, suggests he would pay more heed to Israeli reservations about such negotiations, which are likely, if successful, to leave Iran with a limited right to uranium enrichment. It is also far from assured that, if presented with such an opportunity, Iran's elderly and infirm supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, would have the confidence to embrace it
According to the source, who provided new information, the Qatar meeting lasted for about 11 hours, requiring two breaks so the Iranian delegate could do daily prayers.