Here we go. Strap in: it’s going to be a rough ride. “Obama has begun discreet talks with Iran, Syria,” by Sylvie Lanteaume for AFP, February 1 (thanks to Mackie):
US President Barack Obama has already used experts within the last few months to hold high-level but discreet talks with both Iran and Syria, organizers of the meetings told AFP.
Officially, Obama’s overtures toward both Tehran and Damascus have remained limited.
In an interview broadcast Monday, Obama said the United States would offer arch-foe Iran an extended hand of diplomacy if the Islamic Republic’s leaders “unclenched their fist.”
Meanwhile, his secretary of state Hillary Clinton warned that the Israeli-Syrian track of the Middle East peace negotiations took a back seat to the Israeli-Palestinian track, especially because of the recent war in Gaza.
However, even before winning the November 4 election, Obama unofficially used what experts call “track two” discussions to approach America’s two foes in the region.
Nuclear non-proliferation experts had several “very, very high-level” contacts in the last few months with Iranian leaders, said Jeffrey Boutwell, executive director for the US branch of the Pugwash group, an international organization of scientists which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.
Former defense secretary William Perry, who served in Obama’s election campaign, participated in some of these meetings focused on “a wide range of issues that separate Iran from the West: not only their nuclear program but the Middle East peace process, Persian Gulf issues,” Boutwell told AFP….