President Barack Obama secretly wrote Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the middle of last month and described a shared interest in fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, according to people briefed on the correspondence.
The letter appeared aimed both at buttressing the Islamic State campaign and nudging Iran’s religious leader closer to a nuclear deal.
A couple of questions and my thoughts as to what the answers could be:
1. Why is the Obama administration briefing the press about this “secret” letter. If its supposed to be a secret then why reveal it to the press?
I think one of the major goals could be to increase the pressure on the Iranians. By publicizing Obama’s latest direct outreach to Iran’s supreme leader, it will now be even more difficult for Ayatollah Khamenei to say no to a nuclear deal on Nov 24. If he does say no, it will now be far more difficult for Iran to play the part of the victim.
2. Did Obama write such a letter and then publicize it out of spite against Netanyahu?
Some are already asking this question, as relations between them are bad and getting worst.
In my opinion, Iran is one issue which Obama would not use in his fights against Netanyahu. The Palestinian issue? definitely, because in Israel people are divided and sniping at Netanyahu already. Some would even welcome Obama challenging Netanyahu on Palestinian related issues such as the settlements.
But on Iran? no. This is one area which could backfire badly if Obama uses it to settle scores with Netanyahu. There is far far more unity in Israel when it comes to Iran than on the Palestinian issue. Obama knows that.
In fact its quite possible that Israel was told about this letter. If the Wall Street has been briefed about it, most probably so was Israel, before the Wall Street Journal.
The two people who are likely to gain from such a letter are Rouhani and Obama. I believe they both want a deal, and this letter increases pressure on the main obstacles to an agreement inside Iran, namely the hardline Iranian political elite who have been close to Ayatollah Khamenei for many years.