Seventeen days before Election Day and 45 months after Barack Obama's inauguration following a presidential campaign during which he expressed his eagerness to meet enemy leaders "without preconditions" (Obama responded "yes" to a 2008 presidential debate question containing those words), the New York Times is reporting that the U.S. and Iran "have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations," despite the fact that the White House has "denied that a final agreement (to negotiate) had been reached," and despite a reactive AP report (saved here for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) claiming that while "The White House says it is prepared to talk one-on-one ... there's no agreement now to meet."
Despite the supposed certainty of the Times's headline ("U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks"), the paper's Helene Cooper and Mark Landler report that "American officials said they were uncertain whether Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had signed off on the effort." If Khamenei isn't on board, it doesn't matter what anybody else, including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says or does. Three years ago, two AP reporters covering the government's crackdown on dissidents noted Khamenei's "virtually limitless authority," i.e., he's the country's behind-the-scenes dictator. In a piece that's supposed to be about a supposedly important international development, Cooper and Landler predictably blow through quite a bit of ink and bandwidth trying to paint this development as a problem for Obama's GOP opponent Mitt Romney (bolds are mine):