Saturday, August 1, 2009

An interesting episode on U.S. -Iranian relations


According to a variety of reports, the Iranians offered a grand bargain deal in 2003 via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. The comprehensive deal listed both U.S. and Iranian aims. Through a two-page unclassified fax from Swiss interlocutors (that according to Flynt Leverett, a career CIA analyst and counter-terrorism expert at the State Department at the time, had support from all of the important figures in the Iranian government), Iran sent a bulleted list of trade-offs to spark negotiations between the two countries.

Iran offered to provide full transparency for its nuclear program under the policies of the International Atomic Energy Agency; provide full disclosure to the United States for tracking down al-Qaeda elements; support efforts to create a stable, democratic, nonreligious Iraqi government; halt material support to Palestinian opposition groups; and accept a two-state solution for the Israeli/Palestinian issue based on 1967 borders.

In return, the United States was to forgo all economic sanctions on Iran, cease rhetoric linking Iran to terrorism, establish a fully democratic state in Iraq (ensuring a Shi’ite majority power structure), allow Iran full access to peaceful nuclear technology, and turnover Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (an anti-Iranian terrorist organization) cadres in Iraq to Iran. Apparently, it was this last point that was the most contentious within the U.S. administration, even though it was an aim of the administration to disarm the Mujahedin-e Khalq, which is on the terrorist organizations list.

The offer was rebuffed by the Bush administration. Whether this offer hit a dead end because of a lack of interest on the part of Washington or because of questions regarding the validity and credibility of the proposal, this episode proved yet another failed attempt to fundamentally re-order the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Either way, the United States is now in a weaker position to strike such deals with Iran than it was in 2003 and currently faces an Iranian government dominated by factions less interested in negotiation and engagement with the West.

"Dangerous But Not Omnipotent - Exploring the Reach and Limitations of Iranian Power in the Middle East"
RAND, 2009

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