Thursday, 25 June 2009

Obama sent a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for improved relations ..... prior to the elections!


Wash-Times, here

"Prior to this month's disputed presidential election in Iran, the Obama administration sent a letter to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for an improvement in relations, according to interviews and the leader himself.

Ayatollah Khamenei confirmed the letter toward the end of a lengthy sermon last week, in which he accused the United States of fomenting protests in his country in the aftermath of the disputed June 12 presidential election.

U.S. officials declined to discuss the letter on Tuesday, a day in which President Obama gave his strongest condemnation yet of the Iranian crackdown against protesters.

An Iranian with knowledge of the overture, however, told The Washington Times that the letter was sent between May 4 and May 10 and laid out the prospect of "cooperation in regional and bilateral relations" and a resolution of the dispute over Iran's nuclear program. ....

The letter was sent before the election ...... The Obama administration, while criticizing a violent crackdown on demonstrators by Iranian security forces, has said that it will continue efforts to engage the Iranian government about its nuclear program and other issues touching on U.S. national security. ......

A senior Obama administration official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because he was discussing private communications, would not confirm or deny that a letter had been sent to Ayatollah Khamenei and would not say if there had been a response.

However, the official said, "We have indicated a willingness to talk for a long time and have sought to communicate with the Iranians in a variety of ways. We have made it clear that any real dialogue - multilateral or bilateral - needed to be authoritative."

"On the one hand, they [the Obama administration] write a letter to us to express their respect for the Islamic Republic and for re-establishment of ties, and on the other hand they make these remarks. Which one of these remarks are we supposed to believe? Inside the country, their agents were activated. Vandalism started. Sabotaging and setting fires on the streets started. Some shops were looted. They wanted to create chaos. Public security was violated. The violators are not the public or the supporters of the candidates. They are the ill-wishers, mercenaries and agents
of the Western intelligence services and the Zionists." .....

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Obama administration would do better to "avoid any talk of engagement" with Iran until the outcome of the current political ferment is clearer. ......"

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 3:22 AM

US rescinds July 4th invitations to Iranian Officials ...

LR, in the CABLE, here

"What a difference a month makes. In May, Barack Obama's administration reportedly sent a letter to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterating the U.S. president's public offer of talks with Iran. Then in early June, the State Department said it had instructed U.S. embassies to invite Iranian diplomats to attend official American Independence Day festivities around the world.

But the "hotdog diplomacy" is off, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs announced today: The United States has rescinded its July 4 invitations to Iranian diplomats. Granted, no Iranian officials had actually RSVP'd to the invites, he acknowledged. "I don't think it's surprising that nobody's signed up to come given the events of the past days," Gibbs said. "Those invitations will no longer be extended."

And there are other potential indications that Western efforts to reach out to Iran are being put temporarily on ice. Gibbs's announcement comes a day after Italy said that it too is rescinding invitations to Iran to participate in multilateral talks going on in Trieste Italy later this week, which Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns will attend. (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been scheduled to go but is recovering from surgery to repair a broken elbow.) Iran hadn't responded to that invitation, either, before it was revoked, reports said.

Obama said at a news conference yesterday that he believes prospects for near-term engagement with Iran were not high. "What we have been seeing over past couple weeks is not encouraging in terms of the path this regime may try to take," the U.S. president said.

"The international community is bearing witness to what is taking place," Obama continued. "And the Iranian government should understand that how they handle the dissent within their own country generated indigenously, internally from the Iranian people will help shape the tone not only for Iran's future, but also its relationship to other countries."

Indeed, some Middle East watchers believe the timing of news last night that the United States would send an ambassador back to Damascus Syria after a four-year absence is no coincidence, and may be related to the new Obama administration tone on Iran.

Asked about that theory, a U.S. official said: "You're warm." Syrian Embassy and Middle East expert sources noted that news reports on the envoy to Damascus seemed to have originated with the White House -- which has been in the midst of daily meetings about Iran for several days -- not the State Department.

"I think the Obama administration strategy -- while not fully formed -- was always that it wanted to engage with both Iran and Syria, and it wanted to play one side off the other," said Syria expert Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "This does have to do with that. I don't think we fully understand all of their reasoning on this ... but by announcing that it will send an ambassador to Damascus, it sends a message both to Damascus and Tehran."

"As for engagement at this point, the focus is necessarily on the events in Iran," a senior administration official emailed The Cable Wednesday of current thinking. "How could it be otherwise?"....

The apparent cooling of Obama's outreach efforts to Iran represents a tactical shift, not a change in the goal of eventually getting to engagement, Iran analysts said.

"At the end of the day, the necessity of diplomacy has not changed by this," said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, referring to the post-elections violence in Iran. "The political feasibility [of engagement] has changed."

"When the dust has settled, the U.S. has an interest in dealing with whoever is in charge," Parsi added. "What I don't think should be done prematurely is to determine who is standing before the dust has settled. That is the difference."

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 3:12 AM

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