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Obama used secret channel to warn Khamenei

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Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu this week. (AP)

The United States has used a secret communications channel to dispatch a diplomatic communication to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warning against any threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the New York Times reports.

The Obama administration employed the back channel "to warn Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that closing the Strait of Hormuz is a 'red line' that would provoke an American response, according to United States government officials," the Times' Pentagon correspondents Elizabeth Bumiller, Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt wrote Thursday.

The Times' sources would not describe the means of contact.

But analysts tracking military relations between the United States and Iran  said they believe that Obama officials are likely using a trusted third-country intermediary to get its message to Khamenei. Such a figure, they speculate, would be a classic diplomatic go-between, carrying communiques  from leader to leader.

"It's not a red phone, it's a letter," said Patrick Clawson, deputy director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in an interview with Yahoo News Friday.

Clawson also suggested that the courier in question might be Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who traveled to Iran last week saying he was carrying a message from the West.

"My first suspicion is that Davutoglu was instructed to give to the Supreme Leader" a letter from Obama, he said.

"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 in answer to a question on the matter at the White House press briefing Friday.

"So we obviously have means of communicating with the Iranian government.," he added. "We use those means and methods and ... we deliver the same message in private that we deliver in public."

"It's highly desirable to have a line to the national leadership," said Michael Eisenstadt, a military analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in an interview with Yahoo News.

"How to get to the Supreme Leader, who doesn't give newspaper interviews, and doesn't do a lot of interactions with other government officials, but is the ultimate decision maker, is a question that has bedeviled us since the 1980s," Eistenstadt continued. "How do you make sure you get the message to the guy, and that it won't be diluted?"

"Keep in mind, the administration has sent two prior letters to Khamenei," he continued. "Apparently the channel, if this is the same channel, sounds very much like we have established this channel early on, if it didn't already exist."

Last week, Davutoglu announced in Tehran that Turkey has also offered to host the next round of international Iran nuclear talks.

Yahoo News previously reported that preparations are under way for a possible new round of international Iran nuclear talks to be held in Turkey in the coming weeks.

In the wake of Davutoglu's visit to Iran, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns met with Davutoglu in Turkey this week. And after he'd finished meeting with Burns,  Davutoglu immediately huddled with Iran parliament speaker and former Iran nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, a close ally of Khamenei.

And on Thursday, Larijani asserted at an Ankara press conference that Iran is prepared to resume nuclear discussions with the West.

"I believe all issues can be easily solved through negotiations," Larijani said, the Associated Press reported. "But this time, we want the talks to be serious, it should not be fake."

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