Since 2008, President Barack Obama has had a major foreign policy goal to check off as part of his legacy: a nuclear agreement with Iran.
Despite failed Western sanctions to halt Tehran's implementation of a full-scale nuclear program, Obama planned do something different than past American presidents. During his first campaign, he extended an olive branch by sending former U.S. Ambassador William G. Miller to serve as his secret envoy, TheBlaze has confirmed. And in 2009, Obama broke a 34-year silence in diplomatic relations with Iran when he sent a personal letter to its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seeking to mend fences between the two countries.
It was only one month before the streets of Tehran filled with tens of thousands students and opposition supporters in what became known as the Green Revolution, standing up to what they called the fraudulent re-election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The protests would culminate with Iran's Revolutionary Guard and local police beating demonstrators and killing more than 100 people. At the time, the White House would do little to intervene on behalf of the uprising. Eventually, the administration showed only tacit support through the State Department when it was criticized for remaining silent. But as soon as the Green Revolution was quelled by Iranian hardliners, the Obama administration continued to forge ahead with secret meetings in an attempt to strike a deal that has still remained elusive.
According to numerous officials who spoke to TheBlaze, Miller's meetings with Iranian negotiators would be only the beginning of a litany of numerous secret meetings Obama would direct his high-level administration officials — including his trusted adviser, Valerie Jarrett — to have with Tehran over the next several years. Those meetings — which included discussions regarding American hostages and nuclear nonproliferation — would culminate in an interim agreement signed in 2013, which few analysts believe can be implemented or enforced.
Michael Ledeen, a former special adviser to Secretary of State Alexander Haig and a consultant to the national security adviser during the Reagan administration, told TheBlaze that Miller's meetings with Iran were a significant sign that Obama has a strategy with the long time enemy of the U.S.. He said Miller told him he was having the meetings in 2008.
"Obama believes he can gain cooperation from Iran if the administration apologizes for the United States' past role in the Middle East," Ledeen said. "Every president since Jimmy Carter to the present, since the  revolution, has concluded that we are in a position to make a grand bargain with Iran, that we can get along with them even though they tell us at every opportunity that they hate us, they despise us and they want to kill us."
The deadline for a nuclear agreement is Nov. 24. The U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — known collectively as the P5-plus-1 — set the deadline for a comprehensive deal with Iran, whose interim agreement is about to expire. The aim is to not allow Tehran to acquire the necessary capability to develop a nuclear weapon and to cut back its enrichment program.
Analysts who spoke to TheBlaze warned that Obama's desire to cut a deal may lead to a weak agreement that will fail to hold Iran accountable and give it what it needs to eventually achieve a nuclear state. Wednesday's episode of TheBlaze TV's For the Record, "Iran Revelation" exposed the direct threat posed by Iran and how the United States may be cornered into a deal that benefits one of its most dangerous enemies.
"Senior-level administration officials would hold these discussions with Iranian negotiators in an effort to cut a deal," said a U.S. official familiar with the negotiations but who is not authorized to speak publicly. "But Iran appears to have the upper hand because in reality, they have had to give up nothing for the deal. They benefit more from milking the process."
Under the interim agreement, the U.S. released just over $4 billion in Iranian oil revenue from accounts that had been frozen under past sanctions. The U.S. also suspended restrictions put on gold trade, petrochemicals and car and plane parts. In order to receive the lift on sanctions, Iran was asked to restrict its nuclear activities, allow unfettered inspections and curtail the amount of plutonium produced at its Arak nuclear facility.
The requirements for an interim agreement have been haggled over between administration and Iranian officials since 2009 through nonofficial discussions described as "secret meetings" that began under Ahmadinejad. One discussion in particular occurred in February 2011, when U.S. and Iranian representatives met just outside Stockholm, according to a former U.S. official with knowledge of the meetings. The ex-official told TheBlaze that the discussions included issues such as "hostages, nuclear proliferation, as well as Afghanistan." The former official said that other private meetings took place with Iranian representatives up until the interim deal was made public last year.
Iran recently failed, however, to issue a visa to one of the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and has been stonewalling on finalizing the agreement. But those road bumps have not detoured the administration from reaching a deal; U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, a top U.S. negotiator, told reporters last week that “that all the components of a plan that should be acceptable to both sides are on the table.”
Sherman said the U.S. has made "impressive progress on issues that originally seemed intractable. We have cleared up misunderstandings and held exhaustive discussions on every element of a possible text.”
But Jim Phillips, a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the conservative Heritage Foundation, predicted that the Obama administration will fail to achieve an "acceptable agreement with Iran by November 24, or indeed ever, because it has squandered its leverage by suspending many sanctions."
The six-month trial period for future negotiations is almost up, which means that regulations for the Iranian nuclear program would be lifted and they could continue to expand capabilities and for their uranium enrichment.
"Iran now is perfectly happy to stretch out the negotiations indefinitely while refusing to dismantle key parts of its nuclear infrastructure," Phillips told TheBlaze. "The danger is that the President Obama, in search of a foreign policy accomplishment to shore up his weak legacy, will sign off on a flawed agreement. The Iranians know that Obama wants an agreement more than they do, which gives them more incentive to stall on the negotiations, waiting for the administration to make additional concessions."
Making matters more difficult for the U.S. has been the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Iran views the Sunni militant group as just as much of a threat to its stability as does the U.S., and that may lead the administration "rely on Iran to help defeat the Islamic State, and that in a way gives Iran another card they can play with," a Western official with knowledge of the situation said.
Iranian operatives "have been scouring Baghdad since the U.S. removed the last of its troops in 2011, and they are now playing a central role in what's happening on the ground — if anything, they're benefiting from the fact that we, like the Iranians, want to get rid of the Islamic State," the official said. "But make no mistake, [Iran is] our enemy, too, and any deal with them to resolve the crisis in Iraq would be a huge mistake."
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