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Salehi reveals new details of secret US, Iran back channel

In an extensive interview, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's atomic chief and former foreign minister, reveals new details of the secret back channel to the United States.
Iran's head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi attends a seminar at the Japan Institute of International Affairs in Tokyo, Japan, November 5, 2015. Iran has begun shutting down uranium enrichment centrifuges under the terms of a deal struck with six world powers in July on limiting its nuclear programme, Tehran's atomic energy chief said on November 2, 2015 during a visit to Tokyo.  REUTERS/Yuya Shino - RTX1UTJP

Over the past two years, Al-Monitor has broken the story of secret back-channel negotiations between Iran and the United States via Oman. According to US sources who have spoken to Al-Monitor, these contacts were initiated in 2011 and 2012, when Puneet Talwar, the National Security Council's senior director for the Persian Gulf at the time, and Jake Sullivan, deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, participated in lower-level, “preparatory” meetings with the Iranians, facilitated by the Omanis, to see about the prospect of a bilateral channel led on the US side by William Burns. Subsequently, such higher-level talks were held in March 2013, three months prior to the June election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Now, the Iranian foreign policy magazine 'Diplomat' has published a three-hour interview with Ali Akbar Salehi, who served as foreign minister from December 2010 until August 2013. Of note, Salehi currently holds the title of vice president and heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. The MIT-educated nuclear physicist played a key role in securing the July 14 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, leading the technical track with his US counterpart Ernest Moniz.

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