Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Sunday morning that Israel knew of secret US-Iran talks, and NBC reported that the Obama administration admitted that back-channel talks have been in progress for a direct meeting on its nuclear program. So far, Iran has balked.
The New York Times earlier reported that Iran and the United States have agreed to a face-to-face meeting on Iran’s nuclear program. After initial denials of the report, an unnamed Obama administration official clarified to NBC that despite talks on staging talks, no agreement has been concluded for bilateral discussions and that Iran knows there will be no such agreement if it does not abandon its unsupervised nuclear development.
Ya’alon told Voice of Israel government radio, “It is no secret there are attempts to have direct contact between Iran and the United States, and the report in The New York Times may be too early because it [a meeting] has not yet taken place.”
The leaked report may also be bad timing for President Barack Obama, an administration official told NBC. It comes one day before a critical third and final debate, this time strictly on foreign policy, between Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who has startled pollsters by taking the lead in most surveys.
“Iranian officials had insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election so that they would know which president would be negotiating with them.” NBC reported, quoting the Obama administration official.
Iran will be a prime subject in Monday’s debate. Romney has succeeded in shifting the limelight to foreign policy and away from the economy, which statistics have shown may not be as weak as previously thought.
The Obama administration's stumbled reaction to the terrorist attack in Libya that killed the American ambassador and three other Americans gave the Romney campaign a shot in the arm.
The Republican candidate has consistently hammered away at Obama for allowing Iran to advance its program for nuclear capability, while Obama has tried to label Romney as a man who would risk dragging the United States into war at the expense of domestic needs.
Romney also said in a recent speech in the swing state of Virginia that Obama “has failed to lead in Syria.”