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June 19, 2006

US Rejected Iranian Proposal In 2003 Iran  Politics

The Washington Post reported yesterday that in 2003 Iran sought to open a dialogue with the US, but the administration rejected the proposal out of hand. Excerpt:

Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago, an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table — including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.

But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran, former administration officials said.

Last month, the Bush administration abruptly shifted policy and agreed to join talks previously led by European countries over Iran's nuclear program. But several former administration officials say the United States missed an opportunity in 2003 at a time when American strength seemed at its height — and Iran did not have a functioning nuclear program or a gusher of oil revenue from soaring energy demand.

"At the time, the Iranians were not spinning centrifuges, they were not enriching uranium," said Flynt Leverett, who was a senior director on the National Security Council staff then and saw the Iranian proposal. He described it as "a serious effort, a respectable effort to lay out a comprehensive agenda for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement." [...]

Parsi said the U.S. victory in Iraq frightened the Iranians because U.S. forces had routed in three weeks an army that Iran had failed to defeat during a bloody eight-year war.

The document lists a series of Iranian aims for the talks, such as ending sanctions, full access to peaceful nuclear technology and a recognition of its "legitimate security interests." Iran agreed to put a series of U.S. aims on the agenda, including full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, "decisive action" against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending "material support" for Palestinian militias and accepting the Saudi initiative for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The document also laid out an agenda for negotiations, with possible steps to be achieved at a first meeting and the development of negotiating road maps on disarmament, terrorism and economic cooperation. [...]

Leverett said Guldimann included a cover letter that it was an authoritative initiative that had the support of then-President Mohammad Khatami and supreme religious leader Ali Khamenei. [...]

Paul R. Pillar, former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, said that it is true "there is less daylight between the United States and Europe, thanks in part to Rice's energetic diplomacy." But he said that only partially offsets the fact that the U.S. position is "inherently weaker now" because of Iraq. He described the Iranian approach as part of a series of efforts by Iran to engage with the Bush administration. "I think there have been a lot of lost opportunities," he said, citing as one example a failure to build on the useful cooperation Iran provided in Afghanistan. [...]

Parsi said that based on his conversations with the Iranian officials, he believes the failure of the United States to even respond to the offer had an impact on the government. Parsi, who is writing a book on Iran-Israeli relations, said he believes the Iranians were ready to dramatically soften their stance on Israel, essentially taking the position of other Islamic countries such as Malaysia. Instead, Iranian officials decided that the United States cared not about Iranian policies but about Iranian power.

The incident "strengthened the hands of those in Iran who believe the only way to compel the United States to talk or deal with Iran is not by sending peace offers but by being a nuisance," Parsi said. [Emphasis added]

The gang that couldn't think straight. Have they ever been right about anything?

Posted by Jonathan at June 19, 2006 11:04 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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