A few months after he had been elected, President Barack Obama attempted to renew on a gradual basis U.S. diplomatic relations with Iran, a process that was to lead to establishing embassies and full diplomatic relations. But the Islamic Republic rejected the proposal out of fear for the future of the reign of the Ayatollahs, the Israeli daily Maariv reported on Sunday. The paper claims to have received this information from two Western diplomatic sources close to the Administration.
The American offer was part of an inclusive change of approach to U.S. foreign relations instituted by Obama upon his entry into the White House. The plan was focused on emphasizing negotiations and extending a “diplomatic hand.” Shortly after being elected, the new president announced that he intended to extended his hand to Iran. An announcement of the White House declared that Obama supports “an aggressive and direct diplomacy with Iran, without preconditions.” This was a 180 degree change of the Bush Administration’s approach to Iran. The new Administration was hoping that a rapprochement with Iran would help establish a mutual understanding with Iran regarding its nuclear plan.
At the initial stage, the Americans offered the Iranians the opening of government interests offices—the lowest level of diplomatic relations—in Tehran and Washington. Later on, the Administration was hoping to enter a track of detailed agreements.
Relations between the United States and Iran were severed in 1979, at the conclusion of the Islamic revolution and the ascent of the Ayatollah Khomeini.
According to Maariv, at least two direct meetings were conducted between U.S. and Iran officials starting in the summer of 2009.
Under Secretary of State William Burns and the Iranian head of the negotiations team Saeed Jalili participated in at least one of the two meetings. The two met following the six powers’ meeting with Iran in October of 2009, in Geneva. That direct meeting lasted about an hour. According to an Israeli source close to the negotiations, the Islamic Republic was leery of any sign of normalizing relations with the U.S., and refused to give the Americans “an award.” Iran’s main concern was that the Ayatollah’s regime would be weakened as a consequence of American involvement in Iranian society.
The Administration so far has denied a NY Times report on a new attempt to open a channel of communication with Iran. The White House statement on October 20 read:
It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections. We continue to work with the P5+1 on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally. The President has made clear that he will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and we will do what we must to achieve that. It has always been our goal for sanctions to pressure Iran to come in line with its obligations. The onus is on the Iranians to do so, otherwise they will continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure.