Days after the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) rejected reports that its director Bill Burns met with Iranian officials in Baghdad, a senior US official admitted that the agency's chief had "very good" talks with Iraqi officials.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood echoed the CIA statement that said no meeting took place between Burns and Iranian officials at the home of Iraqi FM Fuad Hussein.
Hood said the reports were “baloney, didn’t happen.”
“But, obviously, he did have very good discussions with the Iraqis, and, you know, that’s very much worth it,” Hood said during a webinar with the Washington-based Middle East Institute.
Hood, who will be heading to the Middle East this week with other US officials, also spoke about Iran’s malign activities. He added that under President Joe Biden, the US would no longer give Iran “plausible deniability.”
The US official cited Biden’s comments in February when he conveyed warnings to the Iranians that they would be held accountable for any attacks on US troops or interests.
Hood also welcomed efforts for dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran. “I don’t know how far it [bilateral talks] will go because, obviously, the government in Iran for the past several decades has had a very, very active policy of supporting armed groups in other people’s countries,” he said.
The upcoming trip to the Middle East will include officials from the White House, Pentagon and State Department. “We want to hear that there is a recognition of our new approach of putting human rights at the center of our foreign policy,” Hood said. US officials will also be looking at ways to “warm up the old peace agreements with Israel and to find what the possibilities and limits are of the new normalization agreements with the other countries.”