On Wednesday Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki "made a rare visit to the U.S. capital Wednesday on a visa granted with unusual speed by the State Department one day before the start of nuclear talks in Geneva," the Associated Press reported the same day.[1]  --  A U.S. State Dept. spokesman said that reason for the trip was that "the Iranians requested permission for Mottaki to visit a Pakistani government office that represents Iranian interests in Washington," Robert Burns said.  --  Stratfor said the next day that it was aware of a "great deal of speculation" about the visit, and took the trouble to report that the Iranian foreign minister "arrived late afternoon in Washington.  Mottaki arrived at the Iranian interests section housed in the Pakistani embassy around 4 p.m., had dinner with Iranian officials and their families and stayed at the embassy until around midnight.  The Iranian foreign minister left Oct. 1 for New York at 6 a.m."[2]  --  Stratfor reported rumors that Mottaki met with Henry Precht, a retired U.S. diplomat who may be involved in back channel discussions with Iran, but the visit remains mysterious:  "There is something more," said the private intelligence company....

1.

IRANIAN MINISTER MAKES RARE VISIT TO WASHINGTON
By Robert Burns

Associated Press
September 30, 2009

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iZfgLuKrg3QBRltJ0qQMIzgIohdQD9B1QRQG0

WASHINGTON -- Iran's foreign minister made a rare visit to the U.S. capital Wednesday on a visa granted with unusual speed by the State Department one day before the start of nuclear talks in Geneva.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley played down the significance of the U.S. decision to permit the visit by Manouchehr Mottaki, even though it marked the first time in years that a senior Iranian official has visited Washington.

"I wouldn't read too much into this," Crowley said.

Iran and the U.S. have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1980.

Crowley said Mottaki will not be meeting any U.S. officials or any Americans representing the U.S. government.

Crowley said he did not know how long it has been since an Iranian government official has visited Washington.

The spokesman said the Iranians requested permission for Mottaki to visit a Pakistani government office that represents Iranian interests in Washington. Similarly, U.S. interests in Iran are represented by the Swiss embassy in Tehran.

A U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said Mottaki went to Washington to visit the Iranian interest section and discuss matters related to Iranians living in the United States.

"We thought it was a straightforward request" by the Iranians for an entry visa, Crowley said. "We granted it on that basis. We're far more interested in having Iran come tomorrow to Geneva and we hope they will be the ones offering gestures and that they are ready to address the concerns the international community has."

Iranian officials are to meet Thursday in Geneva with officials from the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany for talks intended to focus on concern that Iran's nuclear program is for military purposes. Iran insists its program is strictly for peaceful use and has refused to negotiate any limits on it.

Crowley said the decision to allow the Iranian visit was made in the last 24 hours, but he was uncertain when the request had been made. He also did not know how long Mottaki will be allowed to stay in Washington.

On Tuesday, Iran allowed Swiss diplomats, representing U.S. interests in Iran, to visit three Americans who have been detained in Tehran since they were arrested for illegal entry in late July. The State Department welcomed the Iranian gesture. Crowley on Wednesday declined to say what the Swiss diplomats learned about the condition of the three Americans, who have had no contact with their families in the U.S.

--Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

2.

U.S., IRAN: MOTTAKI'S VISIT TO WASHINGTON

Stratfor
October 1, 2009 (1847 GMT -- 1147 PDT)

http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20091001_u_s_iran_mottakis_visit_washington

SUMMARY

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited Washington Sept. 30. While the exact details of the trip remain unclear, it is crucial to keep in mind that the United States allowed him to come to Washington and there was likely a very good reason for the visit.

ANALYSIS

A great deal of speculation is swirling around Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki’s Sept. 30 visit to Washington. Mottaki flew in from New York, where he was attending the U.N. General Assembly meeting, and arrived late afternoon in Washington. Mottaki arrived at the Iranian interests section housed in the Pakistani embassy around 4 p.m., had dinner with Iranian officials and their families and stayed at the embassy until around midnight. The Iranian foreign minister left Oct. 1 for New York at 6 a.m.

The most important thing to remember in examining this visit is that the U.S. State Department granted Mottaki the visa to visit Washington. In other words, Mottaki did not just come to Washington; the United States allowed him to come. This is a significant diplomatic gesture, even if the U.S. administration is going to great lengths to downplay it. In standard Washington diplomatic speak, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “There are no plans that he (Mottaki) will meet with anyone from the United States government. And I’m not aware of any plans that he would meet with anyone on behalf of the United States government.”

Denying knowledge of Mottaki’s plans does not preclude the possibility that Mottaki had a substantial meeting in Washington or en route to Washington from New York. In STRATFOR’s view, it seems unlikely that Mottaki would have made a trip to the political seat of the “Great Satan” -- and that the United States would have granted him such a visit -- unless it were for a good reason. Moreover, his arrival in Washington ahead of the P-5+1 talks in Geneva where the United States would be engaging Iran on serious talks could hardly be a coincidence.

The United States likely made a deal with Iran to ensure any substantial meetings would be shrouded in secrecy. Washington knew that Mottaki’s visit would be leaked, but by guarding information on specific meetings, Iran can continue stretching the negotiations, and the United States can keep up its doctrine of engagement. Both sides are giving the impression that something happened between Washington and Tehran during this visit, but have made the entire event opaque enough to serve their respective interests.

The million-dollar question remains: With whom did Mottaki actually meet? The Iranian state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported earlier that Mottaki had met with two congressmen on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The report struck STRATFOR as quite odd, however, considering that an official of Mottaki’s stature would not meet with lesser officials. International prestige is important to Iran, and if U.S. senators were to meet with Mottaki, they would likely come to him in New York. If Mottaki were to meet with a U.S. official, it would be with one at his level (such as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) or higher.

STRATFOR has also heard that while in Washington, Mottaki met with Henry Precht, who was a political officer in the American Embassy in Tehran from 1972 to 1976 and served as chief of the Iran desk in the State Department from 1978 to 1980 during the Iranian Revolution. Now retired, Precht follows Iranian developments closely and has strongly vocalized his opposition to military action against Iran. He is regarded by Tehran as a trusted intermediary and could well be a back channel to the administration, but again, Mottaki would not have to travel to Washington to meet an individual like Precht.

None of the reports reaching STRATFOR’s ears have the ring of the whole truth to them. There is something more to this visit.