The first direct US-Iranian secret talks on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program took place in 2009 in the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency; the last, in early September 2012 in Paris.
This was disclosed to DEBKA-Net-Weekly by Hossein Moussavian, former Iranian ambassador to Berlin and its representative at nuclear negotiations from 2003 to 2005.
The former Iranian diplomat also revealed that those secret talks were always low level and were often conducted through go-betweens. Washington and Tehran never reached a breakthrough to a deal on Iran’s controversial nuclear program in any of those talks, or agreement on any key facet of that program, he said.
The most wide-ranging and serious discussions actually took place in the first year of Obama's presidency in 2009, when he sought to explore the feasibility of resolving the nuclear controversy through accord and mutual understandings, according to Moussavian. Mid-level US diplomats attended three follow-up rounds in Cyprus, Romania and France.
At the last Iranian-US secret encounter in early September 2012, the Iranian emissary presented the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s offer of an “important concession” for helping Obama win reelection in November. The offer was predicated on easing the latest round of tightened sanctions, lifting the embargo on Iran’s oil sales and allowing its oil tankers to be insured by international firms.
In rapid exchanges of messages, the Iranian concession on offer was revealed as a halt on 20-percent uranium enrichment and the delivery of half its stockpile to international institutions, leaving behind a 10-year supply for the small research reactor in Tehran.
Two-way concessions for secret talks
Moussavian reported that Khamenei expected Obama to take up this offer and hold it up to the American voter as a triumphant feat of his quiet diplomacy. But the president’s advisers objected, maintaining that it would sound suspiciously like a campaign ploy and would therefore be more damaging to Obama’s prospects than productive – or so the Iranian diplomat maintained.
His revelations confirm DEBKA-Net-Weekly reporting on undercover US-Iranian dialogue in the last two years.
Revelations about the secret US-Iranian negotiating track spilled out this week from other sources in Tehran:
Vice-Chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Hossein Ebrahimi this week quoted the Swiss Ambassador to Tehran Livia Leu Agosti as asserting that President Obama had agreed to recognize Iran's right of access and use of nuclear technology.
“We recognize your nuclear rights,” she quoted him as saying to a meeting with senior Iranian foreign ministry officials a few days ago, when she submitted a letter from the US President to Iranian leaders.
According to the Iranian lawmaker, the Swiss ambassador also cited the US president as saying: "I didn't want to impose sanctions on your central bank but I had no options but to approve it since a Congress majority had approved the decision."
Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said on Sunday that Iran had received a US message regarding the Strait of Hormuz via three different channels.
Ahmadinejad’s advice to moderate nuclear program angers Khamenei
Our Iranian sources report that the regime in Tehran is under extreme stress owing to sanctions-induced economic hardships, power struggles and a storm of contention on every key issue, including the nuclear program. Top officials are engaged in a blame game for the damage accruing to the economy from Western penalties.
Ali Dajmar warned that the shipping industry of which he is chairman is close to collapse. Mohammad Nahavandian, chairman of Iran's chamber of commerce, said the country will soon face a shortage of basic products.
The bread bakers of Tehran report a 20-percent decline in sales, forcing massive layoffs.
Iran’s media are defying the government ban on reports harmful to national morale and reporting widespread distress.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the favorite scapegoat for the nation’s ills and Khamenei’s ire.
On his return from delivering a wishy-washy speech to the UN General Assembly in late September, he was accused of underhand talks with Americans on lifting sanctions, which he denied.
But DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in New York disclose that the two deputy UN ambassadors did talk – only nothing came of their meeting because the Obama administration is well aware that Ahmadinejad is on his way out.
He might not even outlast his term, which ends in June, 2013 with the next presidential election.
In the hope of easing Iran’s economic slide, Ahmadinejad is urging a reconsideration of national nuclear policy. This too angered the supreme leader, who retorted that Tehran must stick to its nuclear guns against the West: "Give then an inch and they'll take a mile," he said.