As Barack Obama settles into the Oval Office and begins his stated mission of reorienting U.S. foreign policy, there's been a flurry of attention to exactly when and how Obama will open a direct dialogue with Iran, as he promised in his campaign. No question that will mark a break from the stinging rhetoric and halting, inconsistent diplomacy of the Bush years. But several sources told The Cable that the informal dialogue between senior Americans and the Iranians was much more robust in recent months than has been previously reported. Over the past year, our sources confirmed, former Defense Secretary William Perry and a group of high-level U.S. nuclear nonproliferation specialists and U.S. experts on Iran held a series of meetings in European cities with Iranian officials under the auspices of the Pugwash group. (Pugwash, a group founded in 1957 by an international group of scientists, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 for advocating for the elimination of nuclear weapons.) Perry served as a member of the Obama campaign's national security working group. Sources familiar with the meetings suggest they may be coming to light now via deliberate leaks to the Iranian media, by jockeying Iranian political power players trying to maneuver for advantage amid a shifting Washington-Tehran dynamic and their own upcoming elections in June. Among the Iranian officials who attended the Pugwash dialogues, The Cable has learned, was Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the Iranian ambassador and permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
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