Iran media: Obama sent secret letter of support to Khamenei before election
DEBKAfile Special Report
June 24, 2009, 11:05 PM (GMT+02:00)
Barack Obama purportedly sent a secret letter to Khamenei
US and Iranian sources report that before Iran's presidential election, the Obama administration sent a secret letter to its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for "cooperation in regional and bilateral relations" and a resolution of the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.
The Iranian media gave great prominence to the disclosure - for which they cited the Washington Times of Wednesday, June 24 - in order to underline US president's backing for Khamenei and president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in contrast to his latest words of condemnation for the regime and support for the "reformists."
According to the WT, a senior Obama administration official speaking on condition of anonymity refused to confirm or deny that this letter had been sent to the supreme leader or whether there had been a response.
DEBKAfile's Iranian sources say the Iranians are using this expose to embarrass president Obama for telling a news conference in Washington Tuesday that Iran's rulers are on the wrong side of history.
The secrecy of the communication can only add to the awkwardness because it points to Obama being convinced that once the protest movement dies down, he can go back to his plan for engaging Iran's leaders in dialogue.
Khamenei himself referred indirectly to the missive when he commented in his sermon last Friday:
"On the one hand, they write a letter to us to express their respect for the Islamic Republic and for re-establishment of ties, and on the other hand, they make these remarks. Which one of these remarks are we supposed to believe."
Following the disclosure of the Obama letter, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs announced: "Given the events of the past many days, those invitations [for Iranian diplomats to attend July 4 events in different world capitals] will no longer be extended."
The events going back and forth in a single day, Wednesday, signaled a conspicuous retreat in the process of US-Iranian rapprochement.