Original: This is convenient timing. The New York Times' Helene Cooper and Michael Landry report Iran has finally agreed to sit down for the first time for one-on-one negotiations with the U.S. over their controversial nuclear program.
The catch: they won't sit down until after the election is over. They don't want to start negotiating with a President who may or may not be there in two weeks. But the agreement is a big get for Obama, the culmination of four years of "secret, intense" negotiations between the two sides.
There are a bunch of other logistics to work out, including getting final, official say from Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Top officials have agreed to the talks but Ali Khamenei hasn't signed off. Israel was pretty skeptical Iran would be productive when they spoke to the Times. Israel's spent much of the last year drawing red lines for Iran's controversial nuclear program. They don't want Iran to go over a certain enrichment level without incurring the wrath of an attack. Skeptics are already saying the agreement is an effort from Iran to ease international tension on them. Others are saying they're bending to the sanctions that are tanking their economy.
Update 7:48 p.m. The White House is now denying Iran agreed to the one-on-one talks. White House spokesperson Tommy Vietor sent this out:
It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections. 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. 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.
The Times stands by their report: