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. [...]
The Obama administration’s first direct contact with Iranian officials is expected to come later this month at a U.N.-sanctioned conference on Afghanistan in the Netherlands. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other U.S. officials say Washington and Tehran could collaborate in countering the Afghan narcotics trade and weakening the Taliban.
Interestingly, the story notes a “growing consensus is that the U.S. should seek to begin a dialogue with Iran before June elections there, despite concerns that such recognition could strengthen the position of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” Back in November, the Carnegie Endowment’s Karim Sadjadpour advised U.S. policymakers to “refrain from making any grand overtures to Tehran that could redeem Ahmadinejad’s leadership and increase his popularity ahead of the country’s June 2009 presidential elections.” I’m not sure that seeking a channel to the supreme leader necessarily qualifies as a “grand overture,” though, as much as a simple acknowledgment of who the decider is.
In any case, now would be a great time for everyone to go and read Sadjadpour’s excellent review of Khamenei’s writings and speeches, which Sadjadpour suggests “present arguably the most accurate reflection of Iranian domestic and foreign policy aims and actions over the last two decades.”