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Tuesday, August 11, 2015
MEMRI: Iranian Senior Officials Disclose Confidential Details From Nuclear Negotiations: Already In 2011 We Received Letter From U.S. Administration Recognizing Iran's Right To Enrich Uranium

MEMRI Special Dispatch August 10, 2015 Special Dispatch No.6131
Iranian Senior Officials Disclose Confidential Details From Nuclear
Negotiations: Already In 2011 We Received Letter From U.S. Administration
Recognizing Iran's Right To Enrich Uranium
http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/8700.htm

Iranian officials recently began to reveal details from the nuclear
negotiations with the U.S. since their early stages. Their statements
indicate that the U.S. initiated secret negotiations with Iran not after
President Hassan Rohani, of the pragmatic camp, was elected in 2013, but
rather in 2011-2012, in the era of radical president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[1]
The disclosures also indicate that, already at that time, Iran received from
the U.S. administration a letter recognizing its right to enrich uranium on
its own soil. Hossein Sheikh Al-Islam, an advisor to the Majlis speaker,
specified that the letter had come from John Kerry, then a senator and head
of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Iranian vice president and top
negotiator Ali Akbar Salehi said that Kerry, while still a senator, had been
appointed by President Obama to handle the nuclear contacts with Iran.

The following are initial details from these disclosures; a full translation
is pending.

Khamenei: Bilateral Talks Began In 2011, Were Based On U.S. Recognition Of
Nuclear Iran

In a speech he delivered on June 23, 2015, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali
Khamenei said that the American administration had initiated the nuclear
talks with Iran during Ahmadinejad's term in office, based on a U.S.
recognition of a nuclear Iran: "The issue of negotiating with the Americans
is related to the term of the previous [Ahmadinejad] government, and to the
dispatching of a mediator to Tehran to request talks. At the time, a
respected regional figure came to me as a mediator [referring to Omani
Sultan Qaboos] and explicitly said that U.S. President [Obama] had asked him
to come to Tehran and present an American request for negotiations. The
Americans told this mediator: 'We want to solve the nuclear issue and lift
sanctions within six months, while recognizing Iran as a nuclear power.' I
told that mediator that I did not trust the Americans and their words, but
after he insisted, I agreed to reexamine this topic, and negotiations
began."[2]

Hossein Sheikh Al-Islam: Kerry Sent Iran A Letter Via Oman Recognizing
Iran's Enrichment Rights

In an interview with the Tasnim news agency on July 7, 2015, Hossein Sheikh
Al-Islam, an advisor to Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, said that John Kerry
had relayed a letter to Tehran recognizing Iran's enrichment rights: "We
came to the [secret] negotiations [with the U.S.] after Kerry wrote a letter
and sent it to us via Oman, stating that America officially recognizes
Iran's rights regarding the [nuclear fuel] enrichment cycle. Then there were
two meetings in Oman between the [Iranian and U.S.] deputy foreign
ministers, and after those, Sultan Qaboos was dispatched by Obama to
Khamenei with Kerry's letter. Khamenei told him: 'I don't trust them.'
Sultan Qaboos said: 'Trust them one more time.' On this basis the
negotiations began, and not on the basis of sanctions, as they [the
Americans] claim in their propaganda."[3]

Salehi: Obama Appointed Senator Kerry To Handle The Nuclear Dossier
Vis--vis Iran; Later He Was Appointed Secretary Of State

Iranian Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi and head of Iran's Atomic Energy
Organization, who was restored to the nuclear negotiation team this year,
served as Iran's foreign minister in 2010-2013. In interviews he has given
on Iranian media since April 2014, he too claimed that the Americans
initiated the secret talks with Iran in 2011-2012, and stressed his role in
jumpstarting the process from the Iranian side. In a comprehensive interview
with the daily Iran on August 4, 2015, he elaborated on the secret contacts
initiated by the Americans. The following are excerpts from the interview:

Interviewer: "Why was Oman chosen as a mediator [in the contacts with the
U.S.]?"

Salehi: "We have very good relations with Oman. When [Supreme Leader]
Khamenei recently mentioned 'a respected regional figure,' he was obviously
referring to the Omani leader. Oman is also respected by the West, and it
had mediated between America and Iran on several previous occasions, for
instance in the affair of the American mountain climbers who were arrested
in Iran [in 2009]... When [Iranian deputy Foreign Minister] Qashqavi was
there [in Oman], an Omani official gave him a letter in which he announced
that the Americans were willing to hold negotiations with Iran and that they
were very interested in solving the challenging [crisis] between Tehran and
Washington. We [Iranians] were willing to help facilitate the process, and
it looked like a good opportunity had come up. The 2012 U.S. elections had
not yet started back then, but Obama had already launched his reelection
campaign. The Omani message came just as [Obama and Romney] were starting
their race in the U.S. elections, but there was still time before the
elections [themselves]. At that stage I did not take the letter seriously."

Interviewer: "Why didn't you take it seriously? Because it was delivered by
a mid-level Omani official?"

Salehi: "Yes. This fact concerned us, because the letter was hand-written
and back then I was not familiar with that official. After a while, Mr.
Souri, who was the CEO of an Iranian shipping [company], visited Oman to
promote various shipping interests and talk with Omani officials."

Interviewer: "This was how long after the delivery of the letter?"

Salehi: "He came to me about a month or two after the first letter was
delivered, and said to me: 'Mr. Salehi, I visited Oman to promote shipping
interests, and an Omani official conveyed to me that the Americans were
willing to enter secret bilateral negotiations on the nuclear dossier.' It
was clear that they wanted to launch negotiations..."

"The Omani official whose message Souri was relaying was one Isma'il, who
had just been appointed an advisor to the Omani leader and who still holds a
position in the Omani foreign ministry. He had good relations with the
Americans, and Omani officials trusted him [too]. I said to Souri: 'We are
not at all certain to what extent the Americans are serious, but I'll give
you a note. Go tell them that these are our demands. Deliver [the note]
during your next visit to Oman.' On a piece of paper I wrote down four
clearly-stated points, one of which was [the demand for] official
recognition of the right to enrich uranium. I thought that, if the Americans
were sincere in their proposal, they had to accept these four demands of
ours. Mr. Souri delivered this short letter to the mediator, stressing that
this was the list of Iran's demands, [and that], if the Americans wanted to
resolve the issue, they were welcome to do so [on our terms], otherwise
addressing the White House proposals to Iran would be pointless and
unjustified.

"All the demands presented in this letter were related to the nuclear
challenge. [They were] issues we had always come up against, like the
closing of the nuclear dossier, official recognition of [the right to]
enrichment, and resolving the issue of Iran's past activities under the PMD
[possible military dimensions] heading. After receiving the letter, the
Americans said, 'We are definitely and sincerely willing, and we can resolve
the issues that Iran mentioned.'"

Interviewer: "With whom did the Americans hold contacts?"

Salehi: "They were in contact with Omani officials, including the relevant
figure in the Omani administration. He was a friend of U.S. Secretary of
State [John Kerry]. Back then Kerry was not yet secretary of state, he acted
as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In any case, we received
from the Americans a positive response and message. We came to the
conclusion that we could prepare [to take] further steps on this issue.
That's why I asked the Omanis to relay to Iran an official letter that I
could present to the officials in Iran. I assessed we had a good opportunity
and that we could take advantage of it... They did so, and I presented the
official letter that was received to the regime officials and went to the
[Supreme] Leader to detail to him the process that had been conducted...

Interviewer: "What was the American position in the first meetings that took
place between Iran and the P5+1 during Rohani's presidency?"

Salehi: "After Rohani's government began working [in August 2013] this was
during Obama's second term in office a new [round of] negotiations between
Iran and the P5+1 was launched. By this time, Kerry was no longer a senator
but had been appointed secretary of state. [But even] before this, when he
was still senator, he had already been appointed by Obama to handle the
nuclear dossier [vis--vis Iran] and later [in December 2012] he was
appointed secretary of state. Before this, the Omani mediator, who was in
close touch with Kerry, told us that Kerry would soon be appointed secretary
of state. In the period of the secret negotiations with the Americans in
Oman, there was a more convenient atmosphere for obtaining concessions from
the Americans. After the advent of the Rohani government and the American
administration [i.e., after the start of Obama's second term in office], and
with Kerry as secretary of state, the Americans expressed a more forceful
position. They no longer displayed the same eagerness to advance the
negotiations. Their position became more rigid and the threshold of their
demands higher. But the situation on the Iranian side changed too, since a
very professional team was placed in charge of the negotiations with the
P5+1..."[4]

'Nuclear Iran' Website: Three Rounds Of Talks With The U.S. Took Place
Before Iran's 2013 Elections

The "Nuclear Iran" website, which is affiliated with Irans former nuclear
negotiation team and which supports the ideological camp, reported on April
20, 2014 that "Two additional conditions, out of the four conditions [set
out by Khamenei], were that foreign minister [Salehi] himself not take part
in the talks, and that the negotiations yield tangible results at an early
[stage]. The policy for these negotiations was set out by a committee of
three figures, [all of them] senior government officials, though Ahmadinejad
himself did not have much of a role in it. The main strategy in these
negotiations was [handing] America an ultimatum and exposing its insincerity
and untrustworthiness. Before the 2013 presidential elections, three rounds
of talks took place in Oman, and at these talks the Americans officially
recognized Iran's [right] to enrich [uranium]..."[5]



Endnotes:

[1] This is in contrast to what was implied by U.S. President Obama on July
14, 2015, when he announced the nuclear deal with Iran in a speech that
began with the words "After two years of negotiations..." Whitehouse.gov,
July 14, 2015.
[2] Leader.ir, June 23, 2015. Ahmad Khorshidi, a relative of Ahmadinejad's,
told the website Entekhab in 2014 that negotiations between Tehran and
Washington did not start during President Rohani's term. He said that during
the Ahmadinejad period, there were three rounds of talks between the sides,
which were also attended by then-foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
Entekhab.ir, June 11, 2014.
[3] Tasnim (Iran), July 7, 2015.
[4] Iran (Iran), August 4, 2015.
[5] Irannuc.ir, April 20, 2014.



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