Inside the secret U.S.-Iran diplomacy that sealed nuke deal

Laura Rozen reports: When Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran’s president in June 2013 on a campaign platform of engaging with the West to reach a nuclear deal and improve Iran’s economy, he apparently didn’t know that Iran and the United States had already opened a secret diplomatic channel and held bilateral talks in Oman on the nuclear issue in March 2013.

“The first time I informed Rouhani of the secret negotiations with the United States was after his election to office,” former Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in an interview Aug. 4 with Iran Daily, adding that the incoming president and former Iranian nuclear negotiator was shocked when Salehi briefed him on the consultations ahead of his inauguration: “Rouhani was in disbelief.”

That is among the revelations that have emerged from interviews with senior Iranian and US officials in the wake of reaching of a final Iran nuclear accord by Iran and six world powers on July 14. The final deal — formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — is currently under a 60-day review by the US Congress. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some pro-Israel lobby groups are pressing members of Congress to kill the deal by voting next month on a resolution of disapproval that seeks to block President Barack Obama from providing the US sanctions relief promised in the accord in exchange for significant steps Iran agreed to take to limit its nuclear program. Obama has vowed to veto any such resolution, and Democrats currently believe they have enough support to sustain his veto, if required. [Continue reading…]

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