At least one element of the Times story is true: the agreement, if there actually is one, is undoubtedly “a result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term.” Indeed, there were talks between Iranian officials and a representative of the Obama campaign, even before the inauguration. Secret talks between the two countries have been going on for decades, and I do not know of any American president from Jimmy Carter to the present who did not secretly pursue a deal with Tehran. (I participated in such talks in the mid-1980s during the Reagan administration.)
So what is happening? The most likely explanation is that Obama is still desperately seeking his grand bargain, the one that would validate his (and the Nobel Committee’s) claim to be a talented peace maker. That deal is not available, because the Iranians don’t want it. But he wants something to show for his efforts, so he settled for a big nothingburger: an agreement to talk some more.
Even if the story turns out to be true, I don’t think it will help him. “We’re going to talk to the Iranians!” isn’t a very sexy headline.
The one (mildly) interesting feature is why the story was leaked. Did the leaker(s) think it would help the campaign? Or was the leaker trying to stop yet another embarrassing wasted effort?
Give it a few days, maybe we’ll actually learn something interesting. Maybe it’ll even come up in Monday’s debate…
UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit and to Matt Drudge for the generous links. Welcome, all.
UPDATE 2: The Times changes the story, not mentioning earlier versionn.