*1.* Bernard Gwertzman recently conducted “an interview”:http://www.cfr.org/publication/10326/ with Flynt Leverett (former NSC, now Brookings) containing another description of Iran’s efforts to engage the United States.
Leverett has “previously discussed”:http://www.brookings.edu/views/op-ed/fleverett/20060124.htm this particular Iran offer. Here he says:
bq. In the spring of 2003 we received through this Swiss channel a one-page document, which basically laid out an agenda for a diplomatic process that was intended to resolve on a comprehensive basis all of the bilateral differences between the United States and Iran.
But I think this bit of inside baseball is somewhat new:
BG: I see. So this document pops up on Secretary of State Colin Powellâ€™s desk. It was a very top-secret document, I suppose.
FL:. It wasnâ€™t a classified document. Whatâ€™s so remarkable about it, it was sent over by the Swiss embassy as an unclassified fax.
BG: I see. Thatâ€™s why you can talk about it so easily.
FL: Yes, the document was never classified.
BG: So the United States had to make a decision on what it wanted to do. Was there a big debate about this?
FL: By this point I am out of government and I donâ€™t really know how this played out within the bowels of the administration. What I do know happened is that the formal response of the administration to this was to complain to the Swiss foreign ministry that the Swiss ambassador in Tehran was exceeding his brief by talking with Iranians about a paper like this and passing it on.
BG: Letâ€™s then go to the essence. Is this one of these clichÃ©s that the neo-cons in the Bush administration wanted regime change and nothing else and didnâ€™t want to talk to the Iranians?
FL: I think youâ€™re right. Thatâ€™s the basic motivation, that you had a bunch of neo-cons, and even the president himself [against dialogue], itâ€™s not just the neo-cons who wanted regime change and nothing else. Ultimately the president is, on this issue, very, very resistant to the idea of doing a deal, even a deal that would solve the nuclear problem. You donâ€™t do a deal that would effectively legitimate this regime that he considers fundamentally illegitimate. I think thatâ€™s the real issue.
BG: And he considers it illegitimate because of what? Because it overthrew the Shah in 1979?
FL: No, in the presidentâ€™s view you have this unelected set of clerical authorities, epitomized by the supreme leader, who are thwarting the clearly expressed will of the Iranian people for a more open, participatory political system, for more political, social, intellectual, and cultural freedomâ€ all this kind of thing. And so itâ€™s a system that in Bushâ€™s mind is fundamentally illegitimate. Itâ€™s a system that needs to change, and he is not going to do a deal that lets this regime off the hook, even if that deal would solve our problem with them over the nuclear issue.
*2.* “This _London Sunday Telegraph_ article”:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/04/02/wiran102.xml details the IAEA’s investigative and monitoring techniques. It is frequently overlooked, I think, that the IAEA was able to discover that Iran had conducted secret centrifuge experiments with nuclear material – even after Tehran went to pretty serious lengths to cover its tracks.
Hassan Rowhani, former head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, described his reaction to the IAEA’s skills in the “speech Jeffrey posted”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/file_download/30 the other day:
… we did not know precisely how accurate their sampling would be or how contaminated our centers truly were. Not only I or our politicians did not know, but even our technical people were not fully informed that our imported machines were contaminated. When the IAEA inspectors came to take their samples, we were happy. We thought that these inspections would show that our activities had been within the framework of the NPT.
When they took samples at Natanz and found out during the testing that there was a high level of contamination, we knew nothing about the source of that contamination. Our experts did not know that the pieces that we had bought from the outside had been contaminated, either. We did not even know from a technical point of view how such contamination was transferred or spread. We did not even know how such contamination is discovered at the lab with such precision. Our instruments are very old, while they use very modern labs. The IAEA uses labs in Europe, the United States, and Russia. Therefore, we were amazed by their remarks and conclusions. When they told us that there is 80% contamination, we were taken aback.
Rowhani, BTW, provided a description the IAEA’s environmental sampling techniques:
bq. They have special handkerchiefs [as published] that they
rub over suspect areas and then take to the lab and examine.
[_Brackets in the original._]
Note my display of self-restraint here…