Members of the Trump administration vehemently denied attempting to create a backchannel for potential negotiations with Iran, after a senior confidant of Ayatollah Khamenei alleged overtures to this effect recently were made. Ali Shamkhani, who sits on Tehran’s National Security Council, was quoted by Middle East media outlets as saying that, “During my visit to Kabul [Afghanistan in December], the Americans… asked to hold talks.” While U.S. officials repudiated the claim, they nevertheless reiterated that President Donald Trump is “prepared [for] dialogue with Iran to find solutions to urgent national security issues. Our ultimate goal is to negotiate a good deal that… addresses the full scope of the Iranian regime’s malign activities.” The American leader repeatedly has expressed a willingness to engage the mullahs with a view to formulating a new agreement to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. This comes after President Trump in May withdrew Washington from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name of the Iran atomic accord which major European powers, along with Russia and China, have thus far managed to salvage by devising mechanisms to circumvent renewed U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo currently is on an eight-country Mideast tour that has as an aim to strengthen the support of Sunni states for enhanced measures to curb Iranian expansionism and the regime’s development of ballistic missiles.