The Envoy
  • Iran's ambassador to the UN Mohammad Khazaee served as one of three channels for US message to Tehran. (Charlie Rose/Bloomberg News)Last week, the White House--in response to a New York Times report that President Obama had sent a warning to Iran's Supreme Leader against closing the Strait of Hormuz--acknowledged that it had a variety of ways to communicate with the Islamic Republic, despite the over 30 year breach in diplomatic relations between the two countries.

    "We have a number of ways to communicate our views to the Iranian government, and we have used those mechanisms regularly on a range of issues over the years," White House spokesman Jay Carney said at at a Jan. 13th press conference.

    But the details of the communications mechanism have remained something of a mystery, with the White House this week disputing Iranian media reports that Obama had sent a "letter" to Iran's Supreme Leader offering direct bilateral talks.

    "Obama's message to the Iranian leader was a standard diplomatic communication--not a letter--relaying privately what the United States has said publicly about red-lines in the Strait of Hormuz, a source explained on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic communications," Yahoo News reported Wednesday. "The diplomatic demarche also repeated the message that the United States and its UN Security Council partners remain committed to a diplomatic solution to tensions."

    Dep. Sec. of State Bill Burns (2nd left) visited Iraq to meet with Iraq President Jalal Talabani Jan. 14th (All Iraq News)

    Now, Yahoo News has learned some new details about the latest U.S. message to Iran and how it was delivered--and it appears that rather than the postman ringing twice--that in this case, the United States chose at least two postmen and women, and possibly three.

    Involved in the transfer were the Swiss envoy to Tehran--the United States' official diplomatic proxy and protector in Iran; a second hand-off occurred between Obama's UN envoy Susan Rice and the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York, U.S. sources indicated. In addition, according to an unconfirmed Iranian account, there may also have been a third relay: from Iraq's President Jalal Talabani to the office of Iran's Supreme Leader.

    In perhaps one rare encouraging signal that Iran seemingly at least received the U.S. message relatively free of distortion, Iran's foreign ministry said this week Iranian officials had received the same message--three times.

    Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast "said that Iran has received a US message regarding the Strait of Hormuz via three different channels," Iran's IRIB news service reported Monday.

    "The US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice had handed a letter to Iran's Ambassador to the UN Mohammad Khazaee; the Swiss Ambassador to Tehran, Livia Leu Agosti, also conveyed the same thing; and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani delivered the same message to Iranian officials," Mehmanparast said, the IRIB report continued.

    However, one U.S. source disputed Friday that Talabani was used in this case. How to reconcile the 180-degree conflicting accounts of that one small claim is but one gloomy demonstration of the almost Talmudic layers of complexity involved in the larger U.S.-Iran diplomatic impasse.

    After all, why would the Iranians have said he was used, if he wasn't? Especially given they seemingly accurately reported the other two channels, the Swiss and the UN? One American theory has it that the Iranians claimed Talabani was used in order to try to establish him as a future conduit.

    Another possibility is that Talabani was used as a back-channel but that the decision to do so was kept more close hold or compartmentalized in the U.S. diplomatic apparatus. One hint of possibility on that front is that Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns paid an unannounced visit to Iraq Jan. 14th and met with Talabani, according to Iraqi media reports. That would be one day before the Iranians said they got the U.S. message for a third time from the Iraqi Kurdish leader.

    Burns visit with Talabani "was not a 'secret trip' by any means," a State Department official told Yahoo News Saturday. "We never announce Iraq stops in advance."

    A second US official said the agenda topics for Burns'-Talabani meeting were not focused on Iran, but he did not know if the topic came up.

    "First, on the Strait of Hormuz, this is not just a concern of the U.S. or Turkey," Burns said a few days earlier in a Jan. 12 interview in Turkey with the Anadolu news service. "I think the international community's position is very clear: that free passage through the Strait of Hormuz is an internationally recognized right. Any threat to interfere in any way with that internationally recognized right of free passage is provocative and reckless."

    The office of Obama's UN envoy Rice referred questions about her described role transferring the communication to the Iranian mission back to the State Department and White House.

    Read More »from New details on Obama’s demarche to Iran, as Ashton releases Iran talks proposal
  • Dr. James N. Miller (Defense Department)Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy's principal deputy Dr. James N. Miller will be nominated to succeed her when she departs from the #3 job at the Pentagon in February, multiple defense sources tell Yahoo News.

    Flournoy, who has held the top civilian policy job at the Defense Department and been a key Obama administration national security player representing the department in the inter-agency NSC deputies committee meetings, is slated to step down from the job on February 3rd.

    Miller, her top aide, was sworn in as her principal deputy in April 2009 after Senate confirmation. In that role, he has served as Flournoy's "principal staff assistant ... and provides advice and assistance to the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary on all matters concerning the formulation of national security and defense policy," his Pentagon biography says.

    As such, his impending nomination signals a great deal of continuity.

    Miller previously served as senior vice president and director of studies at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) think tank; as senior vice president at Hicks and Associates; as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Requirements, Plans, and Counterproliferation Policy (1997-2000), and as a staff member on the House Armed Services Committee (1988-1992).

    Miller was awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service in 2000.

    Read More »from Dr. James N. Miller to be tapped for top Pentagon policy job
  • An Iranian mariner greets a US Coast Guardsmen Jan 10, 2012. (Centcom/Defense Department)

    The United States Navy has for a third time in as many weeks come to the rescue of distressed Iranian mariners in the Persian Gulf.

    "The Navy said in a statement that the crew of the destroyer Dewey, part of the Fifth Fleet, had discovered the disabled Iranian vessel, the Al Mamsoor, on Wednesday, tethered to a second dhow, with a third also in the area," the New York Times' J. David Goodman reported Thursday. The Iranian crew had abandoned their boat which had been "taking on water for three days."

    "Once we talked with their captain, it was clear that they needed food and water," U.S. Navy Lt. J.G. Jason Dawson said, according to Goodman's report.

    The Dewey is part of the U.S. Navy's John C. Stennis aircraft carrier strike group which conducted a dramatic rescue earlier this month of 13 Iranian fishermen held hostage by Somali pirates.

    Read More »from U.S. Navy conducts third rescue of distressed Iranian mariners

Pagination

(679 Stories)
  • Russian Ruble Sinks to Record Low
    Russian Ruble Sinks to Record Low

    On Thursday, President Obama affirmed that there would be no American boots on the ground in response to Russia's recently amped up aggression against Ukraine. The markets may being doing the work for him.

  • Volcano erupts in PNG, spewing ash and rock: officials
    Volcano erupts in PNG, spewing ash and rock: officials

    A volcano erupted Friday in eastern Papua New Guinea, spewing rocks and ash into the air, forcing the evacuation of local communities and international flights to be re-routed, officials said. Mount Tavurvur, which destroyed the town of Rabaul when it erupted simultaneously with nearby Mount Vulcan in 1994, rumbled to life early in the morning on the tip of the remote island of New Britain. "The eruption started slow and slowly developed in a Strombolian (low level) eruption with incandescent projections accompanied by explosion noises and ongoing loud roaring and rumbling noises," the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory said. The Australian government issued a warning against travelling to the area, while flag carrier Qantas re-routed some flights to avoid the ash cloud.

  • Islamist gains in Syria alarm some Assad allies

    By Mariam Karouny BEIRUT (Reuters) - A mounting death toll in President Bashar al-Assad's armed forces is causing alarm among some government loyalists who are worried about Islamic State's territorial gains and are turning their anger on the authorities in Damascus. The execution of scores of Syrian soldiers taken captive by Islamic State at an air base in Raqqa province has triggered unusually harsh social media criticism of the Damascus government by people who have taken its side in the civil war. ...

  • Lucic-Baroni 'born again' after ending 15-year agony
    Lucic-Baroni 'born again' after ending 15-year agony

    Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, once one of tennis' hottest talents before being engulfed by heartbreaking personal trauma, reached her first Grand Slam last-16 in 15 years Friday, describing it as the best day of her life. Now 32 years old, Lucic-Baroni had the world at her feet when she was a teenager. In 1997, she made her US Open debut at just 15 and at the same age, she teamed with Martina Hingis to win the 1998 Australian Open women's doubles. In 1999, at 17, she went to the Wimbledon semi-finals where it took Steffi Graf to beat her.

  • S&P 500 edges up to set new record; best month since Feb

    Since falling to a near three-month low on Aug. 7, the S&P 500 has risen in 12 of the past 16 sessions. For the week, the Dow rose 0.6 percent, the S&P advanced 0.7 percent and the Nasdaq was up 0.9 percent, the fourth consecutive week of gains for all three.

  • Pilot in F-15 crash was decorated combat veteran
    Pilot in F-15 crash was decorated combat veteran

    The pilot of an F-15 jet that crashed this week in remote Virginia mountains was killed, military officials said Thursday.

  • Adopted Pit Bull Saves Little Boy’s Life [VIDEO]
    Adopted Pit Bull Saves Little Boy’s Life [VIDEO]

    When a little boy stepped on a bee nest Tuesday and was hit by a swarm of bees, his family’s adopted pit bull dragged him to safety. Jesse-Cole, 8, his sister Jasmine, 17, and seven other kids were playing in a creek behind their Oregon apartment complex when someone stepped on a rotten log and unleashed a dangerous swarm of bees, Fox 12 Oregon reports. The other kids quickly climbed up the steep embankment to safety, but Jesse-Cole, who was stung at least 24 times, was unable to make it. He and his sister Jasmine, who is allergic and was injected twice with an EpiPen were taken to the hospital.

  • Florida mother arrested after five kids found living in filthy home

    By Barbara Liston ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - A Florida mother has been charged with child neglect after her 10-year-old boy came to school in foul-smelling clothes and told a teacher he could not remember when he last took a bath, court documents showed. Betsy Velasquez, 34, of Kissimmee, was charged on Tuesday and was released from the Osceola County jail on Wednesday on a $1,000 bond. Investigators were alerted by an elementary school teacher who also said the boy had been coming to school late and hungry.

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