Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times
Washington, November 25, 2013
First Published: 00:03 IST(25/11/2013)
Last Updated: 01:18 IST(25/11/2013)
Months of clandestine US-Iran bilateral talks preceded the first-step deal signed on Sunday in Geneva, and Puneet Talwar, an Indian-American, was at the heart of it.
US back-channel efforts are said to have started clandestinely in March, according to published accounts citing administration officials over past some weeks.
Undersecretary of state William Burns led these recent efforts, building on those by Talwar, National Security Council aide who has driven President Barack Obama’s Iran initiative for years.
Talwar, who holds the designation of assistant to the president, has been at the “center of the diplomacy (with, and on, Iran)”, The Wall Street Journal said in a recent article.
“He has represented the White House at all of the formal negotiations conducted between Iran and the global P5+1 powers, since 2009,” the article added.
Obama’s back-channel efforts began in 2009, through an exchange of letters with Supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But it did not lead to much.
Contacts between the two countries continued though, some of which were conducted at the UN by US ambassador Susan Rice, now Obama’s National Security Adviser.
The accord is the direct result, though, of recent talks taking place with the election of President Hassan Rouhani, followed by an exchange of letters with Obama, and a phone call.
Details of the accord were hammered out at secret meetings -- five, according to one count -- led by Burns. Some of these meetings took place in Muscat, Oman.
But the final deal was sealed in Geneva. Talwar, who has refused media interviews, was there as part of the US team. He will be happy to move on now, though, with the mission being accomplished.
Obama named him recently as the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, which, if confirmed, will make him the second Indian American currently of that seniority at state.
The other is Nisha Biswal, who was sworn in earlier this week as the assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asia, the most powerful US bureaucrat dealing directly with India