Well, if anyone would know, it’s a random Kuwaiti newspaper.
Odds that this is propaganda fed to the paper by the Saudis or Saudi sympathizers in order to punish O for making nice with the Shiite menace: North of 99 percent. (Why would a diplomat share a scoop this big with an unknown Arab news outlet?) Odds that it’s based on some scrap of truth transmitted through the intelligence pipeline: South of one percent, which is plenty for me to spitball all sorts of reasons for why it might kinda sorta be maybe possibly plausible.
“Al-Jarida has learned from a U.S. diplomat that President Barack Obama is seeking to visit Tehran in the middle of next year,” the report reads, based on a translation using Google Translate.
“The source said that the desire to visit is shared, and that Tehran and Washington are waiting for the conclusion of the arrangements prior to Iranian President Hassan Rohani issuing an official invitation to his American counterpart to visit Tehran…
“The source said that Obama was waiting for the invitation to devote his new administration’s policy in the region based on the principle of non-military involvement and balance. He wants to be the first U.S. president to visit Iran since the Khomeini revolution in order to show that he is an advocate of peace and dialogue even with those who chant death to America.”
Pure nonsense, says the White House. “I don’t believe it,” says a former U.S. natsec official who responded to the Standard’s request for comment. I don’t either — unless O has been quietly dangling this as a carrot to get Iran to agree to a final deal rolling back its nuke program. I’ve always assumed that the price of denuclearization is, in part, official U.S. recognition of the regime. Having Obama go to Tehran and personally welcome the mullahs back into the community of nations would be a pot-sweetener for the ages. Plus, the more spectacularly his domestic agenda fails, the more he’ll want to salvage his second term with some kind of major foreign-policy “achievement.” A comprehensive deal on Iranian nukes followed by a state visit to Iran would qualify as a “major.” ObamaCare’s loss is Ayatollah Khamenei’s gain!
In fact, he may be dreaming even bigger than that: Despite copious evidence to the contrary, including a raging Sunni/Shiite proxy war in Syria, Obama and Kerry have always seemed to believe that a final deal between Israel and the Palestinians is the key to regional peace. They may be thinking that between the U.S./Iran thaw and the de facto Israeli/Sunni alliance against Iran, there’s some minuscule chance to bring the entire region to the table on an Israeli/Palestinian accord if the U.S. and Iran can reach a deal on nukes first. Would Obama be willing to go to Tehran and kiss Khamenei’s ring for that? Probably, sure. Remember, before O got elected president, embraced NSA surveillance, and started droning people willy nilly, the Hopenchange foreign-policy brand was all about dialogue with foreign powers. Going to Tehran would be true to that, and he’d also likely regard it as something that (finally) earned him his Nobel Peace Prize. If nothing else, the mere prospect of him visiting would convey enough legitimacy on Iran as to further dissuade Israel from launching an attack of its own. Which, let’s face it, is what the current temporary nuclear deal with Iran is mainly about.
No matter, though. No final deal on nukes is happening, needless to say. Just today, Rouhani announced that Iran will build a second light-water nuclear reactor in the mold of Bushehr. That’s not a bomb threat in and of itself, but it does signal that the country’s appetite for enriched uranium is increasing, not decreasing. In the best-case scenario, it’s a bit of manufactured leverage that Rouhani’s prepared to give up in lieu of having to give up any part of the nuclear infrastructure they’ve already built. Some concession. Via the Telegraph, here’s his very own “Yes We Can”-style video to celebrate his first 100 days. He and O might well hit it off if that Tehran visit ever happened.