How will report of Iran talks play out during Monday’s debate?


There have been back-channel talks between the U.S. and Iran about meeting bilaterally on the Iranians’ nuclear program – but no meeting has been agreed to, reports NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell.

Expanding on a statement issued by the White House after The New York Times reported that there was an agreement, the official says that the backchannel talks have been done in full consultation with the allies – the P5 + 1 and Israel.

The official pointed out that there have been bilateral talks in the past – but that Iran refused to even meet with the P5 +1 during the recent United Nations meetings. He said the Iranians know there will be no agreement unless they give up their nuclear program.

Asked about the impact on Monday’s foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the official said the administration is not happy that the story came out before the debate, but said the American people might be happy to know the administration is willing to explore all possibilities to get Iran to give up its nuclear program.

The Times, citing a senior administration official, said Iranian officials had insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election so that they would know which president would be negotiating with them. The Times said: “Reports of the agreement have circulated among a small group of diplomats involved with Iran.”

“The sanctions are finally kicking in,” said Council of Foreign Relations’ Richard Haass on Morning Joe Monday. “Iran’s currency has dropped well over 40% in the last few weeks. The U.S. should test the Iranians. We could get a deal that would be good enough for Iran, and not too much for Israel and the U.S. The regime cares more about regime preservation than nuclear weapons. This gives us an opening.”

On Sunday talk shows, Romney’s surrogates argued that if reports are true, Iran’s motives should be seriously questioned. Sen. Lindsey Graham called it “a ploy by” Iranians to buy time for their nuclear program and divide the international coalition.

How will report of Iran talks play out during Monday's debate?