U.S. held secret talks with Iran over Houthi Red Sea attacks

Oman officials mediated between American and Iranian delegations in January in effort to reduce regional tensions; Talks also dealt with Iran's expanding military nuclear program, according to report citing U.S., Iranian officials

Tzippy Shmilovitz, New York|
The United States held secret talks with Iran to urge a stop to the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, the Financial Times reported, citing American and Iranian officials.
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The indirect negotiations that, according to the report, included Washington's concerns over Iran's expanding military nuclear program, were held in Oman in January and were the first time in 10 months that the two nations were engaged in dialogue.
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ג'ו ביידן ואיברהים ראיסי
ג'ו ביידן ואיברהים ראיסי
Ebrahim Raisi, Joe Biden
(Photo: AP, AFP)
The U.S. delegation was led by White House Middle East adviser Brett McGurk and the special envoy on Iran, Abram Paley. The Iranians were represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, who is also the leading negotiator in the nuclear talks. According to the Financial Times, the delegations did not meet directly and Oman officials mediated between the sides, in the negotiations.
The talks were an indication of the efforts by the Biden administration to use diplomatic channels, along with military threats, to reduce aggressions in the region, which have increased substantially since the war in Gaza began.
U.S. officials regard the indirect channel of discussion with Tehran as a method to raise a variety of threats, a source told FT. He said those included a message about what Iran should do to prevent a wider conflict.
Another round of talks was scheduled to be held in February but was postponed when the Americans intended to connect it to the mediation between Israel and Hamas.
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הח'ותים על הספינה "גלקסי לידר" ליד חופי תימן
הח'ותים על הספינה "גלקסי לידר" ליד חופי תימן
A Houthi fighter
(Photo: Yahya Arhab / EPA)
Iran claimed it had limited sway over the Houthi rebels and was unable to dictate what their proxy can do, an Iranian official told the newspaper, but that there could be negotiations with them.
However, there are indications that Tehran was trying to reduce the tensions with Washington after three U.S. service members were killed in a drone strike near the Jordanian border with Syria in late January.
Iran removed some of the senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guards from the area and, since February 4, there have been no attacks on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq or Syria. U.S. officials also noted that the Iranians appeared to be working to rein in the Shiite militias in Iraq.
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