Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Missed Opportunity with Iran

The Washington Post adds background to the story that the Iranians were ready to sit down with the Americans in May of 2003 :
Guldimann attached a one-page Iranian document labeled "Roadmap" that listed U.S. and Iranian aims for potential negotiations, putting on the table such issues as an end to Iran's support for anti-Israeli militants, action against terrorist groups on Iranian soil and acceptance of Israel's right to exist.
Remember, this was one of the justifications of the Iraq war. The Bush administration argued that toppling Saddam and showing our strength would transform the Middle East. Getting the Iranians to stop funding Hezbollah and accept Israel's right to exist would've been seen as a total vindication of that concept. Even if the Iranians had ultimately balked, the U.S. would have proved its willingness to try diplomatic avenues before turning to military ones.
Guldimann's two-page fax prompted a debate among foreign policy professionals on whether the Bush administration missed an opportunity four years ago to strike a "grand bargain" with Iran at a time when Washington appeared at the height of its power after the invasion of Iraq and Iran had not mastered uranium enrichment. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was questioned about the document on Capitol Hill last week. She said she did not recall seeing it when she was national security adviser. "I just don't remember ever seeing any such thing," she said.
The State Department denies this was a real Iranian appeal. They accuse the Swiss ambassador of making the whole thing up:
"This document did not come through official channels but rather was a creative exercise on the part of the Swiss ambassador," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said yesterday. "The last 30 years are filled with examples of individuals claiming to represent Iranian views. We have offered to Iran a chance to sit across the table from us and discuss their nuclear issue and anything else they would like, should they simply, verifiably suspend their uranium-enrichment activities."
Of course, what are the official channels when you refuse to speak with the other side?

3 years after this appeal:
Iran has started small-scale enrichment of uranium — a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors or bombs, diplomats said Monday.

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