By Jerry Dunleavy, Justice Department Reporter, Jan 12, 2021 | Original Washington Examiner article here.
Joe Biden’s pick for CIA director led the secretive “back channel” with the Iranian regime during the lead-up to the Iran nuclear deal, signaling the former vice president’s continued commitment to rejoining the controversial deal that the Trump administration left in 2018.
William Burns, the president of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, served as the U.S. ambassador to Jordan and to Russia, also working in a number of other key State Department posts, including deputy secretary of state from 2011 to 2014. A 2019 book by Burns, The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal, contained an entire chapter on “Iran and the Bomb: The Secret Talks.”
The diplomat recounted President Barack Obama’s early efforts at outreach to Iran but admitted that “this halting momentum … came to an abrupt stop when the Iranian presidential elections in June turned into a bloodbath” as the Iranian regime suppressed Iran’s Green Movement opposition in 2009. He admitted that “the White House’s public response was initially tepid” and that “in hindsight, we should have … been sharper in our public criticism from the start.”
Burns said that:
“Oman sent the new U.S. administration a series of low-key overtures about its readiness to establish a channel to Iran" for years, and when John Kerry took over from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after Obama won reelection in 2012, it was decided that Burns would “lead the American team” with future Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan as his “alter ego” to start secretly negotiating with the Iranians beginning in March 2013 in Oman. Burns said Obama convened meetings in February 2013 to hammer out their approach and that “in all my three decades in government, this was — along with the bin Laden raid in 2011 — the most tightly held effort.”
Burns wrote of Obama that “secrecy would help prevent opponents in both capitals from smothering the initiative in its crib — but it would carry future costs, feeding stab-in-the-back criticisms from some of our closest partners, particularly the Israelis, Saudis, and Emiratis.” Burns said Obama stressed that he should “focus the back-channel talks on the nuclear issue” and recounted that the president “was convinced that we’d never get an agreement with the Iranians without some limited form of domestic enrichment.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in 2018 that Israel had obtained thousands of “Iran’s secret nuclear files” that showed “new and conclusive proof of the secret nuclear weapons program that Iran has been hiding for years from the international community.”
President Trump pointed to the revelations by Israel when he pulled the United States out of the deal in May 2018.
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