Tuesday, February 06, 2007

US Burned Its Own Offering to Iran

I heard something very interesting today. Col. Larry Wilkerson, Flynt Leverett and others have all published information about Iran's May 2003 offer (the one Gareth Porter called a "Burnt Offering").

I heard a slightly modified version of what really happened from an Iranian today at an off-the-record event. According the source, the Americans had actually sent an unofficial offer to the Iranians in April 2003 and the Iranians thought it was a serious effort. The Iranians perceived that such an offer meant that the US was ready to deal with Iranian objectives as well as US objectives. So, the Iranians simply modified the US offer to include everything they wanted on the table.

There are several significant observations about this (in addition, of course, to the obvious, which is that we've been led to believe this was always an Iranian initiative). First, if the US sent the original offer in April and Iran responded in May, that was a pretty quick turn around. It also means that the US was the one to ask Iran to take decisive action against terrorists; help the US stabilize Iraq; undergo a sweeping reorientation of policy towards Israel and acceptance of a two-states approach; stop any material support to Palestinian opposition groups (Hamas, Jihad, etc.) and action on Hizbollah to become a mere political organization within Lebanon; and resolve nuclear disputes, among other key issues. And, more importantly, the Iranians agreed that all these issues were acceptable to bring to the table and negotiate.

In exchange, Iran modified the US offer and asked the US to help pursue anti-Iranian terrorists (e.g. Mujihedeen e Khalq); recognize Iran’s legitimate interests in Iraq; end US hostile behavior and rectify Iran in the US, including removal from the “axis of evil” and the “terrorism list”; lift sanctions and take steps to normalize relations with Iran; and recognize Iran’s legitimate security interests in the region.

Hardliners in the Bush adminitration then dismissed this counter offer, thus renegging on what the Iranians perceived as a serious effort to develop mutual respect between the two countries.

This will only prejudice future serious US efforts. A viable strategy will have to take into account this added challenge. This is just one more example of the cyclical mistrust between the two countries that damages opportunities for progress.

No comments: