A secret letter sent by Barack Obama to Iran’s religious and political leader suggested that diplomacy between the two adversaries over the nuclear issue might presage a broader rapprochement, despite the Obama administration’s denials.
The letter, penned in October and sent to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reportedly referenced a shared interest between the US and Iran in combatting Islamic State (Isis) militants in Iraq and Syria.
White House officials did not dispute the authenticity of the letter, reported by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, but would not discuss its contents.
Cementing an agreement with Iran to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon is the Obama administration’s highest diplomatic priority. It faces enormous opposition in Congress, where legislators of both parties consider the outreach to be a naive folly – opposition that may prove fatal now that both legislative chambers are controlled by the Republican party.
But the administration has repeatedly stated that the nuclear talks, the first sustained and overt diplomacy between Washington and Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, are a discrete endeavor that do not necessarily herald a wholesale thaw in the relationship.