“They sat in separate rooms.” “Secret” talks between Tehran and Washington

Iran and the United States held “secret and indirect talks” in Oman in January, addressing the escalating threat posed by the Houthis in Yemen to shipping in the Red Sea, as well as attacks on US bases by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, according to a newspaper. “The New York TimesAccording to Iranian and American officials familiar with the discussions.

The newspaper reported that the secret talks were held on January 10, in the Omani capital, Muscat, where Omani officials exchanged messages back and forth between two Iranian and American delegations who sat in separate rooms.

The delegations were headed by Ali Bagheri Kani, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and Chief Nuclear Negotiator, and Brett McGurk, US President Joe Biden’s coordinator for Middle East affairs.

The meeting, which was published by a newspaper Financial Times For the first time this week, Iranian and American officials have held in-person negotiations, albeit indirectly, in nearly eight months. American officials told the newspaper that Iran requested the meeting to be held in January, and that the Omanis strongly recommended that the United States agree to this.

What did both parties want?

Since the beginning of the war in Gaza after the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, the United States and Iran have reassured each other that neither is seeking direct confrontation, a position conveyed in messages passed through intermediaries.

But in Oman, each side had a clear request from the other, according to what American and Iranian officials told the newspaper.

The officials stated that Washington wanted Iran to restrain its agents to stop Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea and to target bases that house American forces in Iraq and Syria. In return, Tehran wanted the Biden administration to reach a ceasefire in Gaza.

No agreement was reached, and hours after McGurk left his meeting with the Iranians, the United States led strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on January 11. At the beginning of February, American strikes targeted the bases of Iranian-affiliated militias in Iraq and Syria in response to the killing of three American soldiers in an attack launched by an Iraqi militia in Jordan.

After that, the attacks targeting the bases housing American forces ended, while there were reports that only some of them were targeted in Syria.

Two Iranian officials, one from the State Department, told the New York Times that Tehran stressed during the talks that it does not control militia activity, especially the Houthis, but that it can use its influence over them to ensure that their attacks are suspended when a ceasefire is reached in Gaza, but not before that.

American and Iranian officials told the newspaper that Iran and the United States have continued to regularly exchange messages about proxy militias and a ceasefire since they met in January, with the Omanis as mediators.

The United States and Iran made decisions to avoid direct war in February. American forces avoided direct strikes on Iran in their military response, and Iran convinced the militias in Iraq to stop attacks on bases that house American forces and militias in Syria to reduce the severity of the attacks to prevent American deaths.

Last year, Iranian and US delegations in Oman negotiated an agreement to release American detainees held in Iran in exchange for the release of about $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue funds frozen in South Korea.

They also reached an informal agreement to defuse tensions in the region and reduce the intensity of attacks on bases housing US forces in Iraq and Syria.

“The goal of the recent negotiations in Oman was for both sides to return to this informal agreement and keep tensions at a low level,” Sasan Karimi, a political analyst in Tehran, told the New York Times.

He added, “We should not expect any breakthroughs between Iran and the United States. All of this is narrowly focused on the region at the present time. They want Iran to use its persuasive power with the militias, and Iran says: ‘Not so quickly, not until you give us a pause.'” to shoot fire'”.

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