While Obama has put Israel and Middle East Peace talks on the back burner, his administration has scheduled direct talks with Iran to begin after the November elections, according to the New York Times.
According to the New York Times report, The Obama administration has conducted secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that began in 2009, just after Obama was sworn in as President, according to New York Times report published Saturday.
While the New York Times quotes anonymous White House sources, Obama administration officials have refused to acknowledge the contacts, according to multiple sources including a Reuters report.
However in January of 2009, Obama said in an ABC interview that following his inauguration on Jan. 20, his foreign policy team would become “immediately engaged in the Middle East peace process.”
Speaking on the ABC News program “This Week,” Mr. Obama said he wanted to work directly with Iran — a country whose president has called for Israel’s destruction — to improve relations and halt a nuclear program that Tehran describes as peaceful, but that the West believes is not.
Since that ABC interview, relations between Israel and the U.S. have chilled while Iran has made years of progress in construction of its nuclear facilities. In September, Obama refused to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, citing scheduling conflicts.
The U.S.-Iranian agreement was allegedly set up by “senior Iranian officials” who report to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to the Times.
The leak comes less than three weeks before U.S. elections and after four years of sanctions that have failed to stop Iran from enriching uranium and moving forward with its nuclear program.
However, at the same time, the Obama administration is denying any agreement exists, even after the New York Times cited discussions with high-level “Obama administration officials” as telling the paper about the U.S./Iran meetings.
"It's not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement distributed by the White House. "We continue to work with the P5+1 on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally."
"The President has made clear that he will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and we will do what we must to achieve that," Mr. Vietor continued. "It has always been our goal for sanctions to pressure Iran to come in line with its obligations. The onus is on the Iranians to do so, otherwise they will continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure."