Belmont Club

Tangled web

The Washington Times, in an exclusive report, describes how President Obama sent the Iranian regime a letter offering better relationships before the elections in the expectation that President Ahmadinejad would win a landslide victory. The letter, cited by an Iranian official, contains an offer to settle the nuclear problem with Iran and sheds light on why President Obama was so loathe to offend Khamenei. The Washington Times writes:

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. …

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 Iranian, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic, said the letter was given to the Iranian Foreign Ministry by a representative of the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran in the absence of U.S.-Iran diplomatic relations. The letter was then delivered to the office of Ayatollah Khamenei, he said.

The letter was sent before the election, whose outcome – delivering a supposed landslide to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – has touched off the biggest anti-government protests in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

A landslide did occur in Iran, but not the one that Obama or Ahmadinejad anticipated.

Error: I misunderstood the Politco article.  It now turns out the Pitney appered to ignore Obama, but the Huffington Post appeared to have coordinated a question with the President at a Press Conference. It is an interesting exercise in information management. One indication of how badly the administration’s position on Iran has misfired occured when the Huffington Post refused to throw a pre-arranged softball at President Obama during a press conference and pitched him a fastball instead.  The Politico reports:

In what appeared to be a coordinated exchange, President Obama called on the Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney near the start of his press conference and requested a question directly about Iran.

“Nico, I know you and all across the Internet, we’ve been seeing a lot of reports coming out of Iran,” Obama said, addressing Pitney. “I know there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?”

Pitney, as if ignoring what Obama had just said, said: “I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian.”

He then noted that the site had solicited questions from people in the country “who were still courageous enough to be communicating online.”

“Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad, and if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn’t that a betrayal of the — of what the demonstrators there are working towards?”

Reporters typically don’t coordinate their questions for the president before press conferences, so it seemed odd that Obama might have an idea what the question would be. Also, it was a departure from White House protocol by calling on The Huffington Post second, in between the AP and Reuters.

CBS Radio’s Mark Knoller, a veteran White House correspondent, said over Twitter it was “very unusual that Obama called on Huffington Post second, appearing to know the issue the reporter would ask about.”

The difference between “we won” and “we won’t” is just two characters. The difference between Iran and I ran is just as space.


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