I’ve argued in various instances (sorry, I cannot dig up the links right now) that the only solution to the Iranian nuclear brinkmanship crisis would come through a direct “peace agreement” between the USA and Iran that would include the following:

– an end to Iran’s non civilian nuclear programme
– an end to Iran’s support to anti-Israeli groups like Hezbollah
– security guarantees by the USA to Iran, and an end to threats of regime change
– the end of economic and other sanctions, and a return of Iran as a full member of the international community.

Well, according to this article (unearthed by Fran and posted in her invaluable European Breakfast news thread this morning), which quotes high level sources, including Colin Powell top aide Lawrence Wilkerson, that’s exactly what the Iranians offered, and THEY WERE REBUFFED BY THE NEOCONS.

See also this diary by vercencheto on the UN Security Council discussions.

Neo-con cabal blocked 2003 nuclear talks
By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON – The George W Bush administration failed to enter into negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program in May 2003 because neo-conservatives who advocated destabilization and regime change were able to block any serious diplomatic engagement with Tehran, according to former administration officials.


“The secret cabal got what it wanted: no negotiations with Tehran,” Wilkerson wrote in an e-mail to Inter Press Service (IPS).

Wilkerson is specifically mentioned by name (and he contributed in writing), but others senior guys are quoted elsewhere. This seems like a well sourced article.

Porter is lambasted as a Khmer Rouge apologist in the National Review and other similar publications, but as he was a legislative assistant of John Kerry for a while, that seems to be part of the 2004 swiftboating process. Let the facts stand on their own, and they are damning:

The Iranian negotiating offer, transmitted to the State Department in early May 2003 by the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, acknowledged that Iran would have to address US concerns about its nuclear program, although it made no specific concession in advance of the talks, according to Flynt Leverett, then the National Security Council’s senior director for Middle East Affairs.

Iran’s offer also raised the possibility of cutting off Iran’s support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad and converting Hezbollah into a purely socio-political organization, according to Leverett. That was an explicit response to Powell’s demand in late March that Iran “end its support for terrorism”.

In return, Leverett recalls, the Iranians wanted the US to address security questions, the lifting of economic sanctions and normalization of relations, including support for Iran’s integration into the global economic order.

I really wish I could find links to my writings on the topic, because this so closely mirrors what I wrote a decent peace agreement would look like that it’s freaky (or that it’s reasonalbe, or that I have sold my soul to the Iranians…)

Leverett also recalls that the Iranian offer was drafted with the blessing of all the major political players in the Iranian regime, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini.

He presumably means Khamenei here, but the point that there was an Iranian consensus on that is important. ALL Iranians were spurned when this was turned down.

Realists, led by Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, were inclined to respond positively to the Iranian offer. Nevertheless, within a few days of its receipt, the State Department had rebuked the Swiss ambassador for having passed on the offer.

Exactly how the decision was made is not known. “As with many of these issues of national security decision-making, there are no fingerprints,” Wilkerson told IPS. “But I would guess Dick Cheney with the blessing of George W Bush.”

The usual players, and a partial story teller in Wilkerson (as he is explicitly on one side), but the accusations are pretty damn explicit.

But it was impossible to get formal agreement on the NSPD, the source recalled, because officials in Cheney’s office and in under secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans wanted a policy of regime change and kept trying to amend it.

Opponents of the neo-conservative policy line blame Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, for the failure of the administration to override the extremists in the administration. The statutory policymaker process on Iran, Wilkerson told IPS in an e-mail, was “managed by a national security adviser incapable of standing up to the cabal …”

So, the State Dept. sidelined, the neocons/checkenhawks set loose in the administration, and Rice unable to stand up to them… sounds plausible.

In the absence of an Iran policy, the two contending camps struggled in 2003 over a proposal by realists in the administration to reopen the Geneva channel with Iran that had been used successfully on Afghanistan in 2001-02.

That’s an important point to remember as well: Iran had shown a good deal of goodwill following 9/11, and helped out the USA in very real ways during that period.

On May 3, 2003, as the Iranian “grand bargain” proposal was on its way to Washington, Tehran’s representative in Geneva, Javad Zarif, offered a compromise on the issue [the US wanting Iran to give Al-Qaeda name before negotiations started], according to Leverett: if the US gave Iran the names of the cadres of the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) who were being held by US forces in Iraq, Iran would give the US the names of the al-Qaeda operatives they had detained.

The MEK had carried out armed attacks against Iran from Iraqi territory during the Hussein regime and had been named a terrorist organization by the US. But it had capitulated to US forces after the invasion, and the neo-conservatives now saw the MEK as a potential asset in an effort to destabilize the Iranian regime.

The MEK had already become a key element in the alternative draft NSPD drawn up by neo-conservatives in the administration.

We’ll trade those you think as terrorists for those we think are terrorists. Fair enough… except if one side wnat to use one set of terrorists – sorry, freedom fighters – against the other party…

And apparently, even Bush was overruled!

Nevertheless, Bush apparently initially saw nothing wrong with trading information on MEK, despite arguments that MEK should not be repatriated to Iran. “I have it on good authority,” Leverett told IPS, “that Bush’s initial reaction was, ‘But we say there is no such thing as a good terrorist.'” Nevertheless, Bush finally rejected the Iranian proposal.

And thus we have the current escalation, instead of a sane grand peace bergain. The Iranians are rightly feeling threatened, and rationally see a nuclear bomb as their only protection (I would argue that in a sane world, the oil/Hormuz Straits weapon is good enough for them to fight back and cripple us, but we know that this administration is not sane – or defines “sane” very narrowly).

What a waste. What a fucking waste. The Iranians were ready to deal.

This administration doesn’t want peace, it wants war.

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