The Wall Street Journal reported today (Google link) that President Barack Obama wrote a secret letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last month that “appeared aimed both at buttressing the campaign against Islamic State and nudging Iran’s religious leader closer to a nuclear deal.”
Mr. Obama stressed to Mr. Khamenei that any cooperation on Islamic State was largely contingent on Iran reaching a comprehensive agreement with global powers on the future of Tehran’s nuclear program by a Nov. 24 diplomatic deadline, the same people say.
The October letter marked at least the fourth time Mr. Obama has written Iran’s most powerful political and religious leader since taking office in 2009 and pledging to engage with Tehran’s Islamist government.
The Journal also noted that the Obama administration launched secret talks with Iran in 2012 ahead of the election of Hassan Rouhani as president last year.
About the same time that Obama sent the letter to Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader accused the United States of creating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In the middle of October, Khamenei also issued a diagram with expansive new “red lines” for Iran in its negotiations with the West, including a demand for 190,000 centrifuges, ten times as many as it currently has. It is unclear if Khamenei’s contentiousness was a response to Obama’s overture.
The revelation about the letter comes amid concerns that the P5+1 was considering a deal with Iran that would allow Iran to keep its centrifuges and that the administration was looking to circumvent Congress in any deal made with Iran.
In a press conference yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry called on Iran “to prove to the world that they have a peaceful program.”
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