Hint: If Hillary’s Involved with Negotiations, They’ve Started Already

A bizarre little October Surprise just happened–and then un-happened.

The NYT released a blockbuster story–bylined by current White House and former diplomatic correspondents Helene Cooper and Mark Landler, with a “David Sanger contributed reporting” hidden at the bottom–claiming Iran had agreed to one-on-one negotiations to take place–at Iran’s insistence–after the election.

The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.

Iranian officials have insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election, a senior administration official said, telling their American counterparts that they want to know with whom they would be negotiating.

Shortly after the story broke, however, all sorts of other journalists published firm denials from the White House, and the NYT story now includes this denial from Tommy Vietor.

The White House publicly denied the report on Saturday evening. “It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections,” said Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman. He added, however, that the administration was open to such talks, and has “said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally.”

But note the grammar of the denial: It’s not true that the US and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks after the American elections.

The whole sentence is modified by “after the American elections.” Leaving open the possibility that Iran has agreed to one-on-one negotiations, end of sentence.

And there are hints in the article that that’s what’s going on. First of all, note who’s involved in this.

Among those involved in the deliberations, an official said, are Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, two of her deputies — William J. Burns and Wendy Sherman — and key White House officials, including the national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and two of his lieutenants, Denis R. McDonough and Gary Samore.

Hillary has about two and a half months left on this job. If she intends to craft a deal–and the deal does seem to originate in her State Department–she’s not about to delay a month before beginning the deal. (Though in the aftermath of the Susan Rice testimony, Donilon has been discussed as a replacement for Hillary.)

Then there’s the admission that the parties have held off on multiparty talks because of the “prospect” of one-on-one talks.

A senior American official said that the prospect of direct talks is why there has not been another meeting of the major-powers group on Iran.

If you’re holding off on another forum, chances are good the agreement–if not the talks themselves–have already begun.

Finally, there’s the report–like the last quote hidden way at the end of the article–suggesting the Iran asked for talks after the European oil embargo went into place. But look at the odd logic of these two paragraphs.

But economic pressure may be forcing their hand. In June, when the major powers met in Moscow, American officials say that Iran was desperate to stave off a crippling European oil embargo. After that failed, these officials now say, Iranian officials delivered a message that Tehran would be willing to hold direct talks.

In New York in September, Mr. Ahmadinejad hinted as much. “Experience has shown that important and key decisions are not made in the U.S. leading up to the national elections,” he said.

The Ahmadinejad quote doesn’t follow from a decision in June to hold talks–at least not at first glance–because it seems to suggest a delay in talks. Unless Ahmadinejad was suggesting that decisions were made before the immediate run-up to the election.

Indeed, the structure of these two paragraphs parallels the first two: with a statement suggesting talks are ongoing, followed by a statement suggesting they won’t happen until after the election.

Besides the fact, if you’re Iran, looking at the possibility that Sheldon Adelson’s paid lackey might take the White House, would you really wait around to get a better deal?

Which brings me to the timing of this article, like the many layers of Libya surprises, just in time for Monday’s debate.

Not only does the article suggest the initial news of the negotiations may have come from Nicholas Burns and Dennis Ross–who are named and quoted in the article.

Reports of the agreement have circulated among a small group of diplomats involved with Iran.

Then there’s the bit that’s presumably David Sanger’s contribution.

Israeli officials initially expressed an awareness of, and openness to, a diplomatic initiative. But when asked for a response on Saturday, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren, said the administration had not informed Israel, and that the Israeli government feared Iran would use new talks to “advance their nuclear weapons program.”

“We do not think Iran should be rewarded with direct talks,” Mr. Oren said, “rather that sanctions and all other possible pressures on Iran must be increased.”

When this first came out, many Obama supporters were declaring Obama the victor in Monday’s debate. I, on the other hand, was imagining the attacks Mitt make out of this news:

“Obama is going to get suckered by Iran, making our allies the Israelis less safe.”

“Why would we hold negotiations now after Iran’s allies in Lebanon just assassinated a key figure?”

“Obama is negotiating with terrorists. In the same way he let terrorist-linked militias take over Libya, he’s now letting Iranian terrorists take over the Middle East.”

And all that’s before PapaDick and/or Liz BabyDick Cheney take to the airwaves to call Obama weak for capitulating to Iran.

That is, as excellent as the news might be that Iran will negotiate, an attack on such negotiations fits perfectly with all the other attacks Mitt has been making.

Besides, if you’re Bibi Netanyahu–even if you’ve already agreed to such talks–you want Mitt to make the attacks to raise the price Iran will have to pay for the negotiations.

I read this article and surmise that sometime in June one-on-one negotiations may well have started. And all the chat about after the elections–which makes not one ounce of sense, given the pressures involved–is just cover.

Ah well, whatever is happening, we’re continuing the fight against dental care in Iran.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

9 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    I suspect that if our policy on Iran wasn’t driven so much by people who would like to turn central Asia into radioactive glass, they (and we) would have much easier lives.

  2. par4 says:

    In a just world Iran, one country among many, would be demanding reparations from this government for 60 years of international war crimes.

  3. joanneleon says:

    This is another one of those crazy situations, imho, with reports and then contradictions of those reports and one where I wonder if it is intentional or not. I tend to think not, in this case.

    I’ve checked the NYT story twice today and there is no retraction and no update. Are they standing by it? It’s such a big thing that you’d think that one of the authors or the editor would make a statement about it. Maybe they have and I have missed that part — I haven’t scoured all the stories.

    But seriously, wtf? Is this another part of the pre-debate game playing? What’s going on?

    And speaking of pre-debate game playing, look at this detailed story in ABC News today:
    Intelligence Shows No Planning for Benghazi Consulate Attack

    It is. It isn’t. They are. They aren’t. wtf.

  4. rg says:

    @joanneleon: I followed the link you provided because I sensed something odd in its wording. The headline implied that intellegece (that is, facts) show that the attack was not preplanned. However the report itself quotes early on that there are no facts(or insufficient facts) to show that the attack was preplanned. These are fundamentally different statements, and given how good the editors at ABC News are,it hardly seems to be an accident, given the debate timing, as you pointed out.

  5. joanneleon says:

    @rg: Here is another one, attempting to lay it all out. So maybe they are trying to explain this situation and create a narrative before the debate, but to me, it seems to be creating more confusion. So unless more confusion is what is desired, I don’t know what they are doing.

    The Benghazi Controversy, Explained

    I also assume that both of these were sanctioned by the admin, and that might be a bad assumption.

  6. OrionATL says:

    “…When this first came out, many Obama supporters were declaring Obama the victor in Monday’s debate. I, on the other hand, was imagining the attacks Mitt make out of this news:

    “Obama is going to get suckered by Iran, making our allies the Israelis less safe.”

    “Why would we hold negotiations now after Iran’s allies in Lebanon just assassinated a key figure?”

    “Obama is negotiating with terrorists. In the same way he let terrorist-linked militias take over Libya, he’s now letting Iranian terrorists take over the Middle East.”

    And all that’s before PapaDick and/or Liz BabyDick Cheney take to the airwaves to call Obama weak for capitulating to Iran.

    That is, as excellent as the news might be that Iran will negotiate, an attack on such negotiations fits perfectly with all the other attacks Mitt has been making…”

    it irritates me no end that democrats are so fearful of republican attacks. there is no need to be so. democratic candidates and their advisors seem to believe that it is their lot in american political life to achieve the presidency only by the good fortune of sliding in just under the tag.

    now, benghazi:

    republican candidates/advisors love to play the game with numbed-with-fear-of-losing dems

    of making a trivial charge of malfeasance of some sort against a dem candidate and then herding him (and/or his advisors) down a blind alley and then pummeling them as they squirm and evade.

    the benghazi attack is just such a blind alley, just such a trivial charge of malfeasance –

    – a tragedy to be sure, but nowhere near a tragedy on the scale of g.w. bush iraq invasion and occupation – 4000+ american dead, 100’sK iraqui dead.

    – a tragedy to be sure, but no where near a tragedy on the scale of the first afghan war (2001-2002) and the second afghan war, 2005-2014 (we can hope).

    as for aggressive attack on al-q leadership, 100’s, and i do mean 100’s, of al-q leaders have been killed by the obama admin.

    al-quaida is no longer a force anywhere in the world; it is just a name to put on your t-shirt or to give to, say, your ragtag libyan militia.

    if PREZ obama follows wilbur romney down the yellow sand alley on “benghazi, benghazi, benghazi” then he deserves to lose.

    dems cannot win office of any sort in close elections by hiding what they believe or who they are.

    i would expect president obama to greatly widen the perspective of american foreign policy to a view of american national security activity not limited to the narrow, short, trivial benghazi huit clos.

    when an earnest goof-ball of a republican presidential candidate insists the nation look thru the wrong end of the telescope,

    i expect the dem presidential candidate to refuse to do so AND

    to have the patience to explain to the voters why doing so would be folly.

  7. 8bis says:

    Now would be a good time for some mischievous regional power to do the Francis Boyle thing, invoke the Hague Conventions for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. The world is dealing with an aggressor state with diminished capacity for rational negotiation due to acute dysfunction in domestic politics. Mediation is a right of all states parties. It cannot be labeled hostile intervention. Undercut the US pretensions of authority. Horn in.

  8. Maj.WilliamMartin says:

    @joanneleon:
    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/international/us_watched_as_terror_raged_AypAEEA9OK23rPf7Z5BHWO

    The United States had an unmanned Predator drone over its consulate in Benghazi during the attack that slaughtered four Americans — which should have led to a quicker military response, it was revealed yesterday.

    “They stood, and they watched, and our people died,” former CIA commander Gary Berntsen told CBS News.

    The network reported that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft observed the final hours of the hours-long siege on Sept. 11 — obtaining information that should have spurred swift action.

    But as Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three colleagues were killed by terrorists armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, Defense Department officials were too slow to send in the troops, Berntsen said.
    -break-
    As far as the Iran Nuclear program that Nut’jobyahoo has been demanding that since 1992 Iran was a few years, then months, then weeks and days and now down to Yards…
    U.S. & Israeli Officials: Iran is NOT Building Nuclear Weapons

    The White House, the Pentagon, U.S. intelligence, and reportedly even Israeli intelligence and leaders of the Israeli military, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) all have reached the same conclusions about Iran’s nuclear program:

    1) Iran does not have a nuclear weapon-it only has a civilian nuclear program at this point
    2) Iran is not building a nuclear weapon
    3) Iran has not made the decision of whether or not to build a nuclear weapon in the future.
    http://fcnl.org/issues/iran/us_israeli_intelligence_officials_iran_is_not_pursuing_nuclear_weapons/

    Internal links to Mossad Intel as well as US Intel.

    I would assume since England is now coming into Austerity and the US Banking is Brothers in this Fake Derivative Scam, That the Bank’s will use a FAKE Iranian HACK to shield the US economy from the coming collapse and PAY OUT. After all, The US bombs both Islamic/Arab’s and American’s without proof of Guilt. So why would anyone have to ask for the IP Addresses of the alleged Iranian Hackers? Since the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars were 100% Lies, We can be assured that Iran’s War also will be.

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