The leak of the email exchanges [reported by Semafor and Iran International earlier this week] appears to be a third shot at Malley by [Iranian] hardliners who want him removed from any further Iran diplomacy. The first shot was fired in July, when the Iranian regime-affiliated Tehran Times mischievously asserted that “Malley’s overly close proximity to his non-official Iranian assistants and advisers created the ground for the fall of this experienced diplomat.” In August the paper was back with a “sensitive but unclassified” State Department memorandum to Malley it had obtained informing him that his top secret security clearance had been suspended pending an investigation into possible violations of U.S. national security protocols. The memorandum cited three reasons for the suspension: “Personal Conduct,” “Handling of Protected Information,” and “Use of Information Technology.” The memorandum underscored that Malley’s “continued national security eligibility is not clearly consistent with the interests of national security.”
How the Tehran Times obtained the memo has prompted several theories. A State Department official told SpyTalk that the Chinese have penetrated SIPRnet, a communications system used by the State and Defense departments to transmit classified information up to and including the “Secret” level. Beijing’s cyber spies, said the official, who asked not to be named given the sensitivity of the subject, may have seen the memo and passed it along to the Tehran Times. But a former CIA official said Iran doesn’t need China’s help; its own skilled hackers likely retrieved the memo themselves from Malley’s email account.
While [Ali] Vaez didn’t speculate over who obtained the email exchanges dealing with the influence operation, he left no doubt that it was hardliners in both Tehran and Washington who hope the leak will halt any further diplomatic moves between the two governments. [Continue reading…]
The United States and Iran are denying reports that the two sides are engaged in secret negotiations following a prisoner exchange deal earlier this month that included the unlocking of billions of dollars of frozen Iranian funds.
There are no direct or indirect talks scheduled, including any involving Brett McGurk, White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, a U.S. official told VOA on Wednesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss national security matters.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday dismissed a report by a U.K.-based media outlet that authorities in Tehran had granted its negotiators permission to enter direct talks with Washington to ease sanctions in return for Iran slowing down its uranium enrichment program.
“This type of news sensationalism and media games, which is often used to create a political atmosphere, lacks credibility,” the ministry said, as reported by Iranian state media.
However, Washington appears to be leaving open its door to negotiations.
“We have always said that we are open to diplomacy with Iran. I don’t want to get into what any such talks might or might not look like, but diplomacy, we believe, is the best path to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in response to VOA’s question on whether the U.S. would be willing to engage in direct talks with Iran. [Continue reading…]