The Guardian reports: The Obama administration has moved quickly to water down a report that the US and Iran have agreed in principle to meet one-on-one for negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme.
The New York Times said secret talks between officials that began early in Barack Obama’s term as president had delivered the provisional agreement. Iran had insisted the talks wait until after the November presidential election, the New York Times said, attributing the information to a senior official in the Obama administration.
However the National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in response that the United States would continue to work with fellow permanent members of the UN security council and Germany.
“It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections,” the statement said.
“We continue to work with the P5+1 [five permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany] on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally.”
Vietor said on Saturday that Obama had made clear that he would do whatever was necessary to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Vietor said Iran must meet its obligations or it would “continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure”.
This sounds like a non-denial denial — and also suggests that the New York Times has been used (willingly) to tee-up a question that Obama wants the next debate to focus on: the candidates’ willingness to negotiate with Iran.
The assumption, reasonably, is presumably that Romney cannot persuasively argue that negotiation is a bad thing, nor that willingness to negotiate is in and of itself a sign of weakness. Yet, in expressing his reservations about negotiating he will also inevitably present himself as a handicapped negotiator and thus make Obama look like the more viable deal maker.