international intrigue

Obama Is Still Pen Pals With Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Today’s foreign-policy shocker is that President Obama reportedly wrote a secret letter to Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei about a planned nuclear agreement and anti-ISIS strategy back in October.

The Wall Street Journal says that Obama’s note to Iran’s most prominent critic of the West told him “that any cooperation on Islamic State was largely contingent on Iran reaching a comprehensive agreement with global powers on the future of Tehran;’s nuclear program by a Nov. 24 diplomatic deadline.” The deal has been progressing slowly, and Iran has not been the greatest at meeting the intermediate deadlines. (A White House spokesperson declined to comment on the “private correspondence.”)

This is not the first letter Obama has sent to the man who is arguably Iran’s most important official. (Sorry, Hassan Rouhani.) His first two letters, sent back in 2009, supposedly sought a better relationship between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they went unanswered.

Because Khamenei is so twitchy about dealing with the West, negotiations with Rouhani on the nuclear deal may be fruitless unless Khamenei is onboard as well. As for combating ISIS, Iran may be the most powerful Shia country in the region. While it strongly backed Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, it also has a strong stake in making sure the radical terrorist group doesn’t keep expanding east into Iranian territory.

House Speaker John Boehner, however, sees no reason to reach out. “I don’t trust the Iranians,” he commented to the Journal. “I don’t think we need to bring them into this.”

Sure, there would be legitimate concerns if Obama were making secret deals with Khamenei without telling any U.S. allies. But the one-sided correspondence just seems like he’s sending some good vibes to the crusty septuagenarian leader.

Obama Is Still Pen Pals With Ayatollah Khamenei