President Barack Obama dispatched a personal emissary to a series of secret meetings in recent months with Iranian officials led by a personal representative of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Israel’s biggest-selling daily newspaper claimed on Monday.
Quoting senior Israeli sources, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth named the Obama emissary as Valerie Jarrett, 55, a Chicago lawyer and good friend of Obama’s who serves as a special adviser to the president.
The paper described Jarrett — who was herself born in Shiraz, Iran, to American parents — as “a key figure in secret contacts the White House is conducting with the Iranian regime.”
The contacts, described by Yedioth as “secret negotiations,” have been going on for several months, the report said. They were initiated by Jarrett, and have been directed personally by her, the paper said, quoting its unnamed Israeli sources.
“Jarrett served as the personal and direct emissary of the president to secret meetings with the Iranians, which are understood to have taken place in one of the Gulf principalities, probably the Kingdom of Bahrain,” Yedioth quoted its sources as saying.
Last month, The New York Times and NBC reported that Washington has held secret contacts with Iran, with the goal of entering more substantive negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program. According to the report in The New York Times, Iran was open to the possibility, but asked to wait until after the American elections on November 6 so that it would know who it was negotiating with.
Last week, another Israeli daily, Maariv, reported that Obama began a process ultimately designed to reestablish full US diplomatic relations with Iran, including a reopening of embassies, soon after he took office. The initiative was part of a wider shift in America’s diplomatic orientation, aimed at reaching understandings with Tehran over suspending its nuclear program, Maariv claimed, citing “two Western diplomats very close to the administration.”
That initiative led to at least two US-Iran meetings, the report said. Israel was made aware of the contacts, and opposed them. But Iran rebuffed the “diplomatic hand” offered by the White House, Maariv reported. The Islamist regime “opposed any sign of normalization with the US, and refused to grant a ‘prize’ to the Americans,” according to an anonymous Israeli source quoted by the paper.
According to Maariv, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met with chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili for an hour in 2009, and one other meeting between officials from both sides took place as well.