During the panel discussion of this weekend’s broadcast of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” The New York Times’ Helene Cooper emphasized the importance of the story she wrote with Mark Landler about the U.S. government potentially meeting one-on-one with Iranian leaders.
Cooper explained the White House has been pursuing bilateral talks for “several years,” and suggested that the Iranian government is responding to its economic crisis. (RELATED: New York Times editors hastily and quietly modify story on Iran’s potential meeting with U.S. officials)
“It absolutely matters, because if there’s one place where you’re thinking, where is the next place that Americans could end up sending troops, where troops could get involved, this is ground zero. My colleague at The New York Times, Mark Landler, and I have been working on this story for several weeks, and we’ve been chasing it ever since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sort of hinted at this when he was in New York at the end of September, and came to the meeting with journalists and talked about how Iran is interested in getting into talks with the United States after the election.”
“This is something that the Obama administration has been pursuing for several years now,” she continued. “They’ve been open to it. Iran has not been so sure. They have flip-flopped. You had a lot of internal political maneuverings going on inside Tehran. But the sanctions that have been in effect, particularly the European oil embargo, and that went into effect in June, the Iranians really thought they were going to be able to figure out a way to forestall that, but they couldn’t. So the Iranian economy has really been hurt. And so nobody really has rose-colored glasses thinking that, you know, Americans and Iranians will sit down at a table one-on-one and figure this out. But the belief is that you cannot make any sort of case for going to war if you haven’t exhausted all diplomatic options.”
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman appeared on “Meet the Press” shortly after Cooper and accused the White House of another national security leak.
“[B]oth the White House and the Iranians have said it’s not true,” Portman said. “It sounds to me like from what Helene just said, another example of a national security leak from the White House. You know, they’ve done a lot of that.”
Portman said he expected Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to explain his position on Iran on Monday night, during the final presidential debate, which will focus on foreign policy. Portman questioned whether talks with Iran would undermine American allies in the region, including Israel.
“The other thing that is interesting about this story is, if it’s accurate, is that it sounds like the U.S. is taking the position that we’re going to jettison our allies,” Portman said. “And as you know, there are talks going on right now, the P5-plus-1 talks [The P5-plus-1 refers to all the members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany]. The last thing we would want to do is abandon our allies in this, and to make it a one-on-one negotiation. In fact, some of those allies have actually been more forward leaning than we’ve been, to be sure these sanctions were tough and put in place.”