debkafile's Washington and Iran sources disclose that the G8 ministers meeting in Gatineau, Quebec, agreed to leave the door open to dialogue with Iran after they were discreetly informed that the Obama administration had launched a secret bid to engage Iran's radical Revolutionary Guards in nuclear talks.
The initiative aimed at bypassing Iran's hardline political leaders and ayatollahs.
It was first revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 436 on March 12.
At their meeting in Canada on March 29, the G8 ministers drafted a statement "to remain open to dialogue and also reaffirm the need for the international community to take appropriate and strong steps to demonstrate… resolve to uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation regime."
But they pointedly sidestepped mention of sanctions or any other practical action for curbing Iran's dash for a nuclear bomb, after learning that the US president was no longer behind active steps that would antagonize Tehran. Instead, Washington had sent out messengers to meet high-ranking Guards representatives in Tehran and a number of European capitals in pursuit of a new diplomatic initiative for engaging the IRGC in dialogue, after failing to get anywhere with Tehran's regime leaders.
Those messengers went out on their mission three weeks before US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel blew up into a major crisis over Israeli construction in East Jerusalem.
The US messengers offered IRGC emissaries the following arguments and inducements:
1. Washington was not seeking regime change in Tehran and had proved as much by not backing Iran's opposition in eight months of their protests against a probably rigged presidential election.
2. The US appreciated the IRGC was undergoing two fundamental transformations – one, shifting its radical-militant orientation over to greater emphasis on its vast business and financial interests, and, two, the disappearance of public affirmations of support for president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the vocabulary of its leaders.
3. Washington believes that the IRGC had hoped the president would adopt a new pragmatic line on Iran's nuclear program and relations with the United States and were disappointed by his growing intransigence. It was therefore in both their interests to sideline the hardline Ahmadinejad in national decision-making.
4. UN sanctions against Iran – or unilateral US penalties – would harm the Guards' broad business interests and inhibit their growth pattern, whereas the absence of sanctions would let them expand uninterrupted.
5. As for the core issue, Iran's nuclear weapons program, here, too, the Obama administration was ready to be flexible, said the messengers, and accept Iran's acquisition of a nuclear bomb capability, so long as it does not cross the threshold and tip over into building bombs or stocking a nuclear arsenal.
This US concession would render academic the controversy over whether Iran was indeed pursuing a nuke – and the length of time it needed for its attainment.
The White House's rationale for talking to the Revolutionary Guards rested on the fact that its high command controls every facet of Iran's military nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Washington hopes the two sides can come to terms in advance on where to draw the line on their development. However, according to debkafile's Iranian sources, the Obama administration is still waiting for the Guards chiefs to reply to its proposal.
But already, there is diplomatic fallout in the Gulf region. When US defense secretary Robert Gates visited Riyadh on March 10, he was told Saudi rulers no longer trusted the Obama administration to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat in the light of its backdoor contacts with the IRGC. Gates departed the kingdom after an angry exchange.