Another Iran mystery, foreign minister visits D.C.

September 30, 2009

A visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to Washington, D.C., on the eve of the big talks in Geneva has our antennae twitching.

YEMEN/The State Department says Mottaki was just in town to inspect Iran’s unofficial diplomatic office at the Pakistani Embassy and nothing more (since the severing of diplomatic ties, Iran does not have an embassy in Washington).

Mottaki was apparently not in town for any back channel meetings with U.S. officials in D.C. ahead of talks in Geneva on Thursday between Iran and the United States and other powers.

“I wouldn’t read too much into this … it was a straightforward request and we granted it,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.


It just seems like an incredible coincidence. Why the sudden urge to inspect the office? New furniture? Perhaps some paperwork that needed to be hand-carried?

Mottaki had to get special U.S. permission to come to Washington from the United Nations in New York. And this was the week after Iran was blasted by President Barack Obama for building a second nuclear enrichment site and a day before the Geneva talks.

So it had us wondering why? The U2 concert was last night, the cherry blossoms are long gone, and the shopping is better in New York.

We asked some Washingtonians, who knew as much as we did about the visit, to guess what it might be about and got some creative responses.

The bottom line, one longtime Washington insider says, “If you were intent on having secret talks, the last place you would want to have them would be D.C.”

That doesn’t solve the mystery. What do you think?

Photo Credit: Reuters/Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi (Iran’s foreign minister Mottaki in Sanaa in June)


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Secret deals have been and will always be part of politics. I wouldn’t trust politicians as far as I can throw them… besides, can you spell “Iran contract” scandal!

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

Because of the rift between Obama and the French president,which erupted because of Obama,s reluctance to upset the Iranians ,it could mean that the joint talks would be an a restriction to Obama,s subservience.This DC event could be a side show where what he is prepared to give up would not be known to the rest.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

I agree secret deals go down more than Washington would like to admit…If he was in town for more than the embassy visit, I’m disappointed they can’t pull off a cleaner secret metting than that…lol

Posted by RJ | Report as abusive

He is probably making a deal, promissing to help US in Iraq and Afganistan and US in return not push for cripling sanctions,but this is Mulla’s way of buy time ,and survive till Allah or hiden Imam turn the things aroud for them

Posted by Ali | Report as abusive

I suspect it has to do with the simple fact that there is really nothing illegal about what Iran is doing. Nothing at all. I suspect Iran is trading some information they will keep quiet about if the U.S. backs off on their nuke plants. It may be as simple as telling the U.S. that is Israel attacks, there will be cruise missiles coming up several rivers, or an aircraft carrier will suddenly sink, or that Iran can provide anti-aircraft missiles to the Taliban. It may be that Iran will blindside the U.S. soon on inspections. How about they say, “We’ll open EVERY site to anyone who wants to look if the U.S. will open their sites to the IAEA. Iran may just say that any kind of embargo will be considered an act of war (which is what international law says it is.) Frankly, I’m hoping Iran builds a nuke. That would end the idea of the U.S. invading Iran.

Posted by robert1234 | Report as abusive

China is the puppeteer behind the scenes,although it is saying very little it has a tremendous investment in the outcome of possible sanctions.It,s economic progress is fueled by Iranian oil,and they have invested 100 billion in the production of this oil. Because of America,s reliance on China to lend us money puts us in a insalubrious position.China has just recently fired a shot over our bows hinting that the dollar as the world business currency should be reviewed in the future.Obama has nowhere to turn because China will start pulling his strings on their bailing us out.The only independent trader in the picture is Israel,they are the only ones who can take the handcuffs of Obama,and the Iranians know this.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

It always amazes me the extent to which we’re willing to engage in pure speculation when it comes to Iran. Had Mottaki come at another time, you’d be saying “there’s nothing going on with respect to iran, so why is Mottaki coming now to Washington….unless there’s something so secret going on that we don’t know about it and so we just THINK nothings going on but really somethings going on or else he wouldn’t be visiting Washington now when nothing is APPARENTLY going on….” etc. See how ridiculous that is? Huh? See? I doubt it.

Posted by hass | Report as abusive

My guess?

Iran is getting ready to capitulate to Western demands, and put safeguards in place to ensure that a civilian nuclear industry can’t be abused.

But they don’t want the international media, or their people, to know about the discussions. Otherwise they will appear weak.

It certainly will not be any equal negotiation. America is on the cusp of getting support for full sanctions. And it holds all the cards.

And even without sanctions, America can easily steamroll Iran if it comes to war. All it needs to do is bomb all of Iran’s government, supreme leader, economic and military targets. After a month of intense precision bombing, America wouldn’t even need to invade Iran. The nation would collapse into anarchy and starvation.

What is Iran going to do? Bomb Israel? Even if Iran’s missiles can reach Israel, and manage to hit the required coordinates, Iran will simply get demonised for hitting civilian targets will ballistic missiles.

And trying to attack international shipping will just give America more excuse to trounce Iran. It certainly will kill whatever international support Iran would have.

So Tehran is probing for ways to get out of this with a shred of dignity. It realises there can be no more delays. It must surrender in secret, fall slowly by sanctions, or fall quickly by force.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

The Persian’s invented the game of Chess. I believe Iran does not have nukes. Haven’t we learned anything with what we know about Saddam? We are just playing into the Iranians hands. They will do whatever it takes to provoke the Israelis into bombing those facilities. Then all the mind control over the Muslims will finally come to fruition and the whole muslim world will rise up against the west. Which is what those nuts are trying to do in the first place. So the ambassador is in Washington…Knight to King three, your move.

Posted by E. Cartman | Report as abusive

Quote from a previous above:
After a month of intense precision bombing, America wouldn’t even need to invade Iran.

“Precision bombing” is anything but precise. Over the past 7 yrs, specific areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan have been targeted with little success. This does not mean I support a full-on intervention in Iran, such solution would have consequences we are quite unable to estimate.

Posted by george | Report as abusive

israelis, americans, british, french all have “secret meetings” and travel all over the world and meet quietly. where is this type of article then? recently the israeli prime minister “seceretly” flew to russia to meet with the kremlin, where was you “I wonder why” article then? it seems that western countries can do as they please with out being questioned. you what hopefully iran is playing chess with the west,you always label them as some backwards apocalyptic nation, yet even with all the sanctions placed on them and all the threats they have been getting for the past 30 years, they are still have you guessing. nice job guys

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

perhaps its time you shut off the video games and step into reality.we americans tend to think that we can bomb anyone into submission and call it a day and then we have the nerve to call other countries terrorists? have you all not learned from the failures of iraq and afghanistan? have you forgotten israel’s failure against hezbollah back in 2006? and now we are seriously talking about bombing the country that is much more powerful then hezbollah, hamas, iraq, and afghanistan combined? sorry but i do not think it is worth it to risk further american security and the lives of american soldiers for conflicts in the middle easy, even israel. i give iran all the credit in the world, for being able to survive decades of israeli, american, british, arab, and UN agression and still be in this position, they must be doing something right, regardless of how cruel their methods might be. the world has seen much worse than the likes of iran.

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive

Iran is within its legal rights under NPT to not only enrich uranium but to develop peaceful uses of nuclear power. It has no capacity – until now – for WMD with nuclear warhead.

POTUS is not a hawk (like GWB/Cheney). His primary goal for the long term is to induce The Mullah regime to return to the diplomatic circuit and be fully and legitimately recognized by US and est. full diplomatic relations.

Thereafter the ballgame becomes more constricted because Israel and its neocons in Beltway will not accept POTUS extending a hand to The Mullah’s regime that wants to remove Israel from map of the world.

And, don’t forget, Israel supplied Iran with weapons to fight Iraq during the 1980s war!

Posted by hari | Report as abusive

No Sam, you can’t spell “Iran Contra”…

Posted by Mention Masker | Report as abusive

I suspect that the Iranians are play acting that they are having meetings with US officials, and no one is really meeting with them. Of course, if someone is coming to pick up a couple of poison umbrellas, I vote with put them on sale cheap

Posted by townie1952 | Report as abusive

I agree 100% with Mr. Cartman, Iran is playing the west in order to get Israel or someone to go bomb their nuclear sites, then all hell will break loose. No one can really say if the Iranians are building nuclear bombs, or will use it as they say for generating electric. The west was convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but never found any, it will be a mistake to do the same again with Iran.

Posted by dan | Report as abusive

I think he is looking for a restaurant that would accomodate a dinner for Ahmadinezhad. He could not find one in New york.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

i realy dont understand the whole sitration

Posted by mickey | Report as abusive

May be it was the cosular’s birthday and he delivered a yellow cake.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

anon, what cards do America have?if any?We are deeply reliant on middle east oil,and we are deeply in dept to China.We are desperately trying to get countries to support us.We are a member of a world body the UN where we are consistently being ridiculed.We have a string of tin pot dictators who determined to confront us because they know we are powerless,and are relishing the prospect. To add to this we have a president who,s only line of thought is to try and apologize and appease hoping that they will throw us a carrot.the only card we have left is Israel and that is what might give us a temporary reprieve if we throw them under the bus.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

@8:26 am
Just a correction to your note. Actually precision bombing is exceptionally precise and has been used to good effect in Pakistani. It has been little used in Afghanistan as there is little to bomb…the Taliban’s assets are limited to donkeys, toyota pickups, and people; all of which are scattered over a wide area. Afghanistan is an infantry war and bombing there is virtually all of the close air support (CAS) variety to help troops in contact.
Conversely Iran is a (partially) developed country with dense cities, significant infrastructure, an economy built largely around natural resource development (oil et al), a fixed and well-known leadership structure with palaces et al, and strategic targets (the nuclear facilities) that are immobile. Precision bombing could be used very effectively in Iran.
Whether we should or not is a different question of course.

Posted by jonathan | Report as abusive


Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

I think the Foreign Minister is planning to defect !! Sounds credible eh ?

Posted by mohammed Rashid | Report as abusive

If you push the dog to the end of the robe, it will bit you back…. Iran is no different.
carrot and stick are more appropritate.

Posted by keith | Report as abusive

>And even without sanctions, America can easily steamroll Iran if it comes to war. All it needs to do is bomb all of Iran’s government, supreme leader, economic and military targets.

Not necessary. Just sink some crude carriers in the gulf of Hormuz and Iran’s oil export and gas import slide to a halt, and with them the whole economy.

Posted by RHS | Report as abusive

Iraqi WMD’s were moved to Syria 30-60 days before the US invasion — I thought everybody knew this now …. listen to the once exiled General Sadr – formerly Head of the Iraqi airforce. As for Iran ….. the US needs them for Afghanistan, among other things, they are pretty much a nuclear power and it’s simply a question of continuing the facade until the media and the public lose interest. Iran will have an embassy in Washington. Nothing will be done. The wild card is Israel. They will be left with no choice but to act on their own — and it will be soon.

Posted by Rick | Report as abusive

as humorous as it is to read some of the comments by these “experts” in these commentaries, i would like to present a series of questions and would love to see if any logical answers can be given?

1.) if Israel can barely handle a small band of street thugs like hezbullah in a tiny country like lebanon, how are they going to handle a nation 10 times bigger with a population 10 times bigger then lebanon with a military 10 times bigger then hezbullah which also happens to be 10 times further then lebanon? and they would this while trying to fly over arab countries who although despise iran, hate israel even more.

2.)just recently our america generals have presented the idea of us loosing in afghanistan, to a group of hoodlums with donkeys, pick up trucks, and 1980 soviet weapons. we are being forced to leave iraq with a pro-iranian government in place. so how exactly do u think we can fight another much bigger and tougher war with a much stronger and bigger opponent?

3.) you can propose to drop all the bombs you want no matter how “precise” or how big you think they are, the only result will lead to attacks on oil facilities and military bases around the region. so are we ready to pay $10 for a gallon of gas especially in this economic climate? and what about the losses our military men and women who are already over worked will face? are we ready to re-instate the draft or sign up for tours??

I look forward to seeing logical and intellectual responses to these questions, however will not have high hopes

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive

when is this going to be clear to world these people are american agents and always been meeting always going to protact their interest only one thing is not clear when is their contract expires.

Posted by tony | Report as abusive

I do think Mottaki is here for back-channel talks. With whom? I can only guess it is Hillary, or perhaps Bill Burns, though he has left for Geneva today. The fellow the Iranians sent to Geneva, Jalili, is a hard-line light-weight with little experience and is a lousy negotiator. He is an old friend of Ahmadinejad. Mottaki, on the other hand is the anti-Jalili, experienced, moderate, and a good negotiator. He is an old friend of Ali Larijani, the MP from Qum who is a potential rival to Ahmadinejad. Who would you rather talk to, if you were Obama?

Posted by Gordon New | Report as abusive

Sidney,Israel showing against hesbullah was hindered by a leader who is now being charged with corruption.Another example of a liberal appeaser who tried to limit the impact of the retaliation hoping it would have gained world wide support,with was a total impossibility.If Israels enemies thought for one minute they could defeat Israel they would attack them tomorrow.Iran have no stomach for a all out war with Israel because they know they would be routed,they prefer to finance small groups of terrorists,that is their token response apart from threats,any direct confrontation is not a reality even if they get the weapons. If Obama keeps up his procrastination then Israel will take out Iraq that is not even a question they have the contingency plans already drawn.The geographical position of Israel because it is near other nations atomic bombing would be difficult,but Iran is isolated and strategic bombing would a lot easier.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive


Israel will not need to attack Iran. America will be more then willing to do so if Iran refuses to play ball.

Now imagine the following. America launches an attack on Iran. Think about what will happen when:

-The top levels of Iranian government.
-The supreme leader.
-Economic targets.
-Power and infrastructure.
-Military bases.
-Nuclear facilities
Are all completely destroyed by a month of missiles and bombs?

How can Iran stop that? How will it’s supposed “massive army” stop this? Are they going to shoot missiles out of the sky? How do you think Iran will supply or even feed it’s army once all this is done?

America will not even need to invade. Why invade a nation that has lost everything of value from bombs?

You think this is a videogame? It is real. Generals study for years learning how to destroy the ability of the enemy to wage war.

Bombing the taliban doesn’t work, because the taliban is unconventional. But Iran is a conventional nation with many valuble targets. American bombing will tear it to pieces in weeks. The nation will fall apart.

I have questions for you, Sydney:

If Hezbulla won the war against Israel,
-Why are there no more rockets coming from lebenon?
-Why did Hezbulla not help Gaza during the last war?
-Why are UN peacekeepers now on land that was formerly held by Hezbulla?

And: If Iran attacks oil facilities and other countries with missiles, how will this stop the falling of American bombs?

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Sydney. Your answers:

1) Hizbullah no longer launches any missiles at Israel. Lebenon ended up being bombed without opposition for the entire conflict. Areas of Lebenon are now occupied by the UN forces. And Hizbulla didn’t lift a finger to help Hamas during the bombing of Gaza. Does that sound like Hizbullah won a war with Israel?

2) Insurgents are simply small groups who dart around, sniping a soldier occasionally. Iran is a nation with vulnerable conventional targets and a conventional army, and can easily be bombed until it is completely defeated.

The bombardment which will happen to Iran if it resists will be much worse then what happened to Iraq (which if you recall had little bombing needed, because the military collapsed almost immediately)

3) If America is simply bombing Iran to bits, they will not need to invade the country. Meaning no actual fighting with the Iranian army, no American casualties and no need for the draft.

Any attempt by Iran to shut off the straits from trade will not succeed for long, especially after their nation is collapsed from bombing. Other oil exporting nations will be happy to see Iran fall, if Iran does such things.

And while Iran can choose to launch missiles at oil facilities and American bases (which means attacking non-participant nations) all it will do is lose whatever little international support it has and retrospectivly justify America’s actions further.

So. Logical or intellectual enough? If you believe there are logical flaws, then point them out. I will be sure to reply.

Posted by Defcon | Report as abusive

Of course it would be best for the world if Iran (and other) nations would stop seeking nuclear arms and if those so armed would start destroying their nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, whom exactly would Iran use them on? The Israelis, to help the Palestinians?–a bit of geography training is in order if you think so. Iraq, the next-door neighbor?–well, then duck and cover. The U.S.? Yeah sure. Or slowly Iran will build up into a major power, even under extreme economic sanctions in a world turning fast as possible from oil dependency, with desert areas like much of Iran growing hotter and even drier? Right.

Posted by Polly | Report as abusive


You seem to misunderstand the concept of nuclear warfare. Half of a nuclear weapon’s use is destruction. The other is deterrance.

Israel has been attacked by the Arab nations several times in the last fifty years. In all those times, it was critical for Israel to finish the wars quickly and with maximum gain.

Now that Israel has a (widely accepted) nuclear capability, the Arab nations can no longer attack conventionally. Because any successful war against Israel would likely end in the limited use of nuclear weapons by Israel on the hostile attackers.

But what happens if Iran gets nuclear weapons? Now the deterrance is lost.

The Arab nations can once again attack Israel. Because if Israel is forced to use nuclear weapons, it knows that Iran will be able to respond. Israel’s nuclear weapons will no longer deter further invasion.

And in fact, the Arab nations could attack Israel whenever they please. And whenever the war goes against them, they wave their nukes around and get an instant ceasefire. And because nobody likes nuclear war, this will always work.

These are the things which you fail to account for, in your analysis of nuclear politics. Iran, however, is fully aware of these things. This is why they seek nuclear weapons. Something even the IAEA is beginning to realise.

And that is why Iran will not be given the opportunity.

Posted by Defcon | Report as abusive

We need new thinking guys, we’re just being reactive, think fresh and think proactively, lead and effect rather than react and be on the defensive.We should learn something from the Bush years.

Posted by Mr ShopDisplays | Report as abusive

even though I’m not a cynical person i have to say i agree with Ali on this.

Posted by Mr Card | Report as abusive

[…] the Reuters had a very important news about the secret relations between the Mullahs and the US. Another Mullah mystery, Mullah foreign minister visits Washington was a report about a secret meeting between the Mullah officials and the US officials, when the […]

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