followers of the Iranian nuclear impasse, this
past weekend has seen news about bilateral
discussions between US and Iran coming in thick
Firstly, we saw an Iranian
ex-Revolutionary Guard insider outlining - in
remarkable detail - discussions he claimed had
been held between the United States and Iran.
These apparently culminated within the past three
weeks in high level contacts in Qatar between a
close confidante of President Barack Obama -
Valerie Jarrett, who was actually born in Iran -
and one or more high level Iranian officials.
The outcome of these talks, in respect of
which the source was allegedly at the highest
level in Iran, was that an agreement between the
US and Iran would be announced before the US
presidential election takes place on November 6,
Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei
receives the written guarantees he requires from
Secondly, and following
close on the heels of the first announcement, we
saw a New York Times exclusive report - also
allegedly founded on a very high level source -
that bilateral meetings between the US and Iran
had been agreed in principle, but would take place
after the election.
Within hours the White
House had denied the latter story, although
stating that the US has been prepared throughout
to engage bilaterally with Iran. Trailing in a few
hours later, we then saw denials from Iran that
any agreement had been reached.
Bismarck's cynical warning comes inescapably to
mind: "Never believe anything in politics until it
has been officially denied".
We may then
then add to the mix the recent meeting in Istanbul
- solicited by Iran - between their negotiator,
Saeed Jalili, and Catherine Ashton, the
representative of 5+1 (the five permanent members
of the United Nations Security Council plus
Germany), and recent conciliatory noises in New
York from the unlikely source of Iran's President
Everything I have
heard from Tehran supports the case that Iran does
indeed - as a result of the economic turmoil -
urgently wish to come to terms, but will not begin
to do so until US electoral uncertainty is over
after November 6.
Romney on the
spot President Obama is in a position, if
he has the killer instinct, to make life very
uncomfortable for the challenger in the upcoming
final debate, which will cover foreign policy.
Firstly, Romney would be forced to agree
that he too will be prepared to negotiate
bilaterally with Iran since he would find it very
difficult to hide behind the coat-tails of the
5+1. Secondly, he would find it very difficult to
explicitly support a negotiating position that
leads to regime change, such as imposing zero
Once these issues have been
publicly conceded, I have no doubt that Iran will
make - whoever is elected - whatever concessions
are necessary to meet the requirements of Russia,
China, and above all, the European Union. I do not
believe that the US is any longer in any position
to act unilaterally in the way desired by its
long-standing Israeli partners.
Prices The market is over-supplied with
physical crude oil but prices have been supported
by speculative money betting on the Iran Risk
Premium. Once again we have seen the Saudis
delivering cargoes of crude oil to the US Gulf,
which is awash in crude oil, at prices well below
the North Sea Brent/BFOE benchmark price, which
they state they wish to reduce.
be a very interesting week if the market perceives
a reduction in "Iran Risk".
Cook is a former director of the International
Petroleum Exchange. He is now a strategic market
consultant, entrepreneur and commentator.
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times
Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please
contact us about sales, syndication and