US President Barack Obama has agreed to hold direct talks on Iran’s nuclear program with its leaders, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Is this a surprise? On April 16, 2012, DEBKAfile disclosed that Washington and Tehran were conducting back-channel talks in Paris and Vienna, Sources close to Obama have now leaked word to the New York Times that the dialogue is to be elevated to direct talks at summit level. This disclosure, despite its subsequent denial by the White House, has three clear objects:
1. To slow down the Republican contender Mitt Romney’s momentum in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 6 election. Obama’s campaign advisers believe the president’s willingness to engage Iranian leaders directly on their nuclear program, in contrast to Romney’s tougher stance, will appeal to the American voter’s reluctance for US military action.
2. To preempt Romney’s presumed plan to drop the disclosure of the back-channel dialogue as a bombshell in their last debate on foreign policy scheduled for Monday, Oct. 22 in Florida.
3. To reassure Tehran that the Austere Challenge 12 joint US-Israeli war game starting Sunday Oct. 21 – albeit in reduced form – will not be the opening shot for an “October surprise” on Iran.