Analysis: How Obama should reach out to Ayatollah Khamenei

One must not overlook fact Ahmadinejad isn't most powerful man in Iran - Ayatollah Ali Khameini is.

Khamenei with a halo 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Khamenei with a halo 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's congratulatory letter to Barack Obama has increased the likelihood that the two sides will approach each other and start negotiations sometime in the future. However, one must not overlook the fact that Ahmadinejad isn't the most powerful man in Iran - Ayatollah Ali Khameini is, and Obama should approach him, instead of Ahmadinejad or whoever Iran's next president happens to be, because Iran's foreign and nuclear policy are determined by the Supreme Leader. But what is the best way to ensure that Khameini takes him up on the offer? Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute For Near East Policy (WINEP), focusing on the role of politics in contemporary Shi'ite clericalism in Iran and Iraq has made the following sound recommendation: "A bold and direct US offer to Ayatollah Khameini, such as proposing that a top US official meet with him in his Teheran office, would put Khameini in a difficult position. It is possible - although not likely - that he would accept, especially if he believes that Iran faces a direct threat from economic failure or Israeli attack, or if he thought that American officials would treat him respectfully and end US pressures on his regime. "But even if he refused to meet, the United States, having tried to solve the problem through diplomacy at the highest level, would most likely find it easier to reach consensus with its strategic allies to increase sanctions on Iran." Some in the past have accused WINEP of being a right-wing conservative think-tank, but even if that were true, this article would still show that dialogue with Iran is now becoming a bipartisan decision. This is a welcome change in US foreign policy, the fruits of which can be enjoyed by both the people of the US and the Middle East. Meir Javedanfar is the coauthor of "The Nuclear Sphinx of Teheran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran." This article originally appeared in PJM Media