(CNN) - President Obama sent a direct message to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, weeks before this month's disputed election, Iranian sources said Wednesday.
The letter requested dialogue and engagement between the two nations, the sources said.
The sources said Khamenei has yet to reply to the letter but nonetheless it "had set the negotiating table in order for both sides to sit around it after the election."
Khamenei made an indirect reference to the letter in his sermon Friday at Tehran University.
"The U.S. president said that we were waiting for a day like this to see people on the street," the Iranian leader said. "Some people attributed these remarks to Obama and then they write letters to say we're ready to have ties; that we respect the Islamic republic and on the other hand they make such comments. Which one should we believe?"
(CNN) - Will President Obama just talk about the state of this troubled Union whose economic crisis he has inherited, or will he cast his net of ideas far and wide to address a new American relationship with the world?
After much talk of engaging America's adversaries, chief among them Iran, the Obama administration has made no move so far, pending a policy review.
But Iranian leaders from President Ahmadinejad on down have sent letters and delivered speeches welcoming a change of U.S. policy and declaring themselves to be ready for talks, 30 years after relations were ruptured by the Islamic revolution.
Iran's help in Iraq and Afghanistan could be useful, though its uranium enrichment program proceeds apace.
But the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, says Iran seems to be slowing down its centrifuge operations, perhaps as a political gesture of good will.
If Iran is slowly unclenching its fist, will Obama offer an outstretched hand Tuesday night?
(CNN) - When Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, the wish list that has been building abroad may have grown longer than he or anyone else can deliver.
There are the apparently eternal conflicts of the Middle East and Kashmir, between India and Pakistan, that have already reared their ugly heads almost as a warning even before Obama took office. Between them, they engulf most of the grievances and violence that shape the Islamic world and its relations with the United States.
Intense U.S. involvement will be needed to help resolve both of the conflicts. This will require imagination, creative out-of-the-box diplomacy, and the courage to see it through both from the United States and leaders on the ground. Going back even to the status-quo ante will no longer be sufficient.