The New York Times reports: The United States and Iran have agreed for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.
Iranian officials have insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election, a senior administration official said, telling their American counterparts that they want to know with whom they would be negotiating.
News of the agreement — a result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term — comes at a critical moment in the presidential contest, just two weeks before Election Day and the weekend before the final debate, which is to focus on national security and foreign policy.
It has the potential to help Mr. Obama make the case that he is nearing a diplomatic breakthrough in the decade-long effort by the world’s major powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but it could pose a risk if Iran is seen as using the prospect of the direct talks to buy time.
It is also far from clear that Mr. Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, would go through with the negotiation should he win election. Mr. Romney has repeatedly criticized the president as showing weakness on Iran and failing to stand firmly with Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat. [Continue reading…]
This puts Romney in an interesting and awkward position.
He’ll find it hard to say that he refuses to enter into such negotiations. “I promise that I won’t talk to the Iranians,” just won’t sound like a vote winner from a guy who currently wants to paint himself as Mr Moderation.
But neither does he want to cast himself as an echo of Obama 2008 — willing to talk to America’s enemies.
So how’s he going to fashion some sort of credible middle ground?
To talk, or not to talk. That is the question.