The White House on Monday categorically denied a report that President Obama is planning a trip to Iran next year.
“There is no truth to this report,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told The Hill in an email.
Kuwait's Arabic-language Al-Jarida is reporting on the front page of its website that U.S. and Iranian officials are negotiating a presidential visit for the middle of next year. The report cites an unnamed U.S. diplomat and states that a key sticking point to the visit is whether Obama would meet with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
“The source said that the desire to visit is shared, and that Tehran and Washington are waiting for the conclusion of the arrangements prior to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issuing an official invitation to his American counterpart to visit Tehran,” says an English translation of the report, posted by the conservative Weekly Standard.
“The source said that Obama was waiting for the invitation to devote his new administration's policy in the region based on the principle of non-military involvement and balance,” the report claims. “He wants to be the first U.S. president to visit Iran since the Khomeini revolution in order to show that he is an advocate of peace and dialogue even with those who chant death to America.”
Relations between the United States and Iran have rapidly improved since Rouhani's election over the summer. Obama in September became the first U.S. president to call his Iranian counterpart since the 1979 Islamic revolution, and last month the two countries agreed on a historic preliminary deal on Iran's nuclear program.
Obama has made improving America's image in the Middle East a cornerstone of his diplomacy, and earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 in part thanks to his speech in Cairo in which he declared to Iran and other hostile autocracies that “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
That said, there are reasons to think a visit by Obama to Iran is far-fetched.
The two countries have a long way to go before restoring normal diplomatic relations, with the U.S. considering Iran a state sponsor of terrorism and the two countries backing opposite sides in Syria's civil war.
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