Now That's What I Call Talking To Your Enemies
Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei runs Iran. There is no dictator named Ahmadinejad. There is no Iranian Revolution without the Ayatollah. If you're going to make a deal with Iran, you're going to have to get the participation of Khamenei. Which, impressively, is what President Obama is seeking.
In what I’m going to interpret as clear evidence that President Obama reads this blog, the Wall Street Journal reports that the administration is “looking at ways to develop a direct line of communication to [Iranian] Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”
American and European officials say Mr. Khamenei is the only Iranian leader who can make the ultimate decision to suspend or freeze Iran’s nuclear program.
“The key issue is now to find a channel to Khamenei,” said a senior Western diplomat briefed on the Obama administration’s policy review in recent days. “If the supreme leader moves, he’s going to do it in a very prudent and incremental way.”
The discussions are part of a larger Iran-policy review that the Obama administration is aiming to complete this month, according to U.S. officials.
Matt Yglesias has a bit more. This is smart for several reasons, the most obvious being that you bargain with the one who can actually secure the bargain. There's an election for the Iranian President in June, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad challenged by a number of reformers. His word in negotiations will be held up by politics for several months, and we should not wait until that is settled. I don't think renewing sanctions and forward actions like shooting down an Iranian drone over Iraq (did you even hear that happened?) are particularly helpful to the extent that they strengthen the hand of the hard-liners. But the Obama Administration is clearly offering a mixture of carrots and sticks, and if they actually get the ear of Khamenei, there's a very real chance of success.