Barack Obama personally stepped in multiple times during the secret multinational talks with Iran that led up to the negotiations that began yesterday in Vienna, White House sources tell Time. When Iran put the word out that it needed enriched uranium plates for its aging research reactor, the Obama administration saw the opportunity for a deal. If Tehran used its own uranium for the harmless plates, they couldn’t use it for a bomb.
Obama flew to Russia to propose that the Russians re-enrich the uranium, then send it to France to be made into the plates. “The Russians immediately said, ‘Great idea,’” says one official. When he met Dmitry Medvedev at the UN, he sought presidential-level assurances that Russia wouldn’t instead enrich outside uranium for Iran. But the high-level back-room politicking has yet to bear fruit; Iran raised objections yesterday to French involvement in the talks, based on an ancient business dispute, and it's unclear whether their intention is to derail the whole deal.