Washington has decided to negotiate directly with Iran, and will resort to military force in four or five months if diplomacy can’t persuade Tehran to relinquish its alleged atomic weapons program, Israel’s Channel 10 News reported on Tuesday night, quoting a senior American official.
The channel’s veteran diplomatic correspondent Emmanuel Rosen reported that President Barack Obama had decided to bypass Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and leave Israel out of the loop. Rosen said that Obama believed Netanyahu was personally behind a recent series of purported leaks from reports produced by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) about the Iranian program.
According to a report Monday in the Guardian, Western officials speculate that Israel could have leaked the information in order to increase international pressure on the Iranian regime.
Obama, the report said, had set down some preconditions to negotiations, demanding that Iran cease production of high-enriched uranium and grant IAEA inspectors full access to, and supervision over, its nuclear facilities.
Channel 10 suggested that America’s decision to hold off on military involvement in Syria for the time being was due to the fact that it didn’t want to open a new front with the prospect of a war against Iran looming on the horizon.
In recent weeks, there have been increasing indications from the US that it is willing to hold direct bilateral talks with Iran.
The basic contours of any negotiated solution are clear: US, European and other international sanctions would be eased if Iran halts its enrichment of uranium that is getting closer to weapons-grade, sends abroad its existing stockpile of such uranium and suspends operations at its underground Fordo facility.
But Iran’s leadership has refused to bite on that approach, even as the value of its currency has dropped precipitously against the dollar, sparking an economic depression and massive public discontent.
That has prompted US brainstorming on ways to reshape the offer to make it more attractive for the Iranians, without granting any new concessions that would reward the regime for its intransigence, administration officials said in November. They spoke on condition of anonymity, because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Last week, Iran’s foreign ministry said direct talks with the United States were possible, but that such a step would have to first be approved by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.