Rice: What Iran Proposal?

Glenn Kessler “this morning”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/07/AR2007020702408.html reported that, during a hearing yesterday, SecState Rice claimed to have never seen “this 2003 proposal”:http://www.armscontrol.org/pdf/2003_Spring_Iran_Proposal.pdf from Iran.

According to the _Post_:

bq. “I have read about this so-called proposal from Iran,” Rice told the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, referring to reports in The Washington Post and other publications last year. “We had people who said, ‘The Iranians want to talk to you,’ lots of people who said, ‘The Iranians want to talk to you.’ But I think I would have noticed if the Iranians had said, ‘We’re ready to recognize Israel.’ . . . I just don’t remember ever seeing any such thing.”

If anyone at State wants to refresh her memory, they can check the proposal out “here”:http://www.armscontrol.org/pdf/2003_Spring_Iran_Proposal.pdf. Subsequent Iranian proposals related to their nuclear program and other issues can be found “here.”:http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Iran_Nuclear_Proposals.asp

Anyway, the _Post_ article gives some details about the State/NSC sausage factory:

Rice dismissed yesterday the earlier comments of [former NSC official Flynt] Leverett.

“First of all, I don’t know what Flynt Leverett’s talking about, quite frankly,” she said. “Maybe I should ask him when he came to me and said, ‘We have a proposal from Iran and we really ought to take it.’ ”

Leverett said yesterday that he became aware of the two-page offer, which came over a fax machine at the State Department, in his waning days in the U.S. government as a senior director at the National Security Council, but that it was not his responsibility to put it on Rice’s desk because Rice had placed Elliott Abrams in charge of Middle East policy. “If he did not put it on her desk, that says volumes about how she handled the issue,” he said yesterday.

Abrams is currently the deputy national security adviser in charge of the Middle East and democracy promotion. An NSC spokeswoman, speaking on behalf of Abrams, said yesterday that Abrams “has no memory of any such fax and never saw or heard of any such thing.”

Former State Department officials have said that they saw the Iranian offer and used it as a key element in a 2003 memo to then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell proposing that the United States pursue a “grand bargain” with Iran. The Iranian offer was attached to the memo, but Powell did not forward the memo to the White House, officials said.

Kessler also did some more homework:

bq. Last June, Rice appeared to confirm, in an interview with National Public Radio, that the White House had received the memo. “What the Iranians wanted earlier was to be one-on-one with the United States so that this could be about the United States and Iran,” Rice said. State Department officials at that time did not dissuade reporters from interpreting her comments as referring to the 2003 fax.

Here is the “relevant portion”:http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/67391.htm of that interview:

QUESTION: Some officials who work with you at the White House and at the State Department said that the U.S. missed an opportunity in 2003, that Iran came to the U.S., wanted to talk, and the U.S. rejected that. And that was a period when the U.S. was stronger. It appears that the U.S. is coming to this in a much weaker position. Aren’t you?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I think coming to the table with the entire international community united around a particular course is a pretty strong position to be in. What people wanted, what the Iranians wanted earlier, was to be one-on-one with the United States so that this could be about the United States and Iran. Now it is Iran the international community, and Iran has to answer to the international community. I think that’s the strongest possible position to be in.

Not a denial.

5 thoughts on “Rice: What Iran Proposal?

  1. yale

    Reading that 2003 Iranian proposal —- wow

    If two parties can’t sit together and at least talk based upon the points in that doc, then what can be a basis for discussion?

    Looks like the US missed an historical opportunity.

  2. Matt


    Even Newsweek has now weighed in on the flap:

    “Rice was asked again this week about a dramatic opening for such a negotiation that took place in late April and May of 2003, when Iranian officials, using their regular Swiss intermediary, faxed a two-page proposal for comprehensive talks to the State Department. According to the document, a copy of which was obtained by NEWSWEEK, Tehran plainly laid out the two countries’ “aims” and proposed “steps” to resolve them “in mutual respect.” The document, believed to reflect the views of Iran’s president at the time, the moderate Mohammad Khatami, proposes negotiations on most of the main outstanding issues of interest to Washington—including Iran’s nuclear program, its support for Hizbullah and Hamas and terrorism in general, and stabilizing Iraq.”

    See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17050142/site/newsweek/page/2/

    I’m waiting for someone to call her out on this…

  3. lucabrazi

    Remember the context. The extent of Iran’s deception on nuclear matters was just coming to light. Iran also began negotiations with the EU3 which Iran has since all but acknowledged were exercises in buying time for progress in their program. What in the proposal is worth putting on the table giving this regime FULL access to Western nuclear, chemical and biological technology? Could it have been followed up in such a way that would’ve kept the EU engaged (instead of just nagging in the background and undercutting US efforts)? Plus, just as important as recognizing Iranian sensitivities, it is important to acknowledge our own: Khobar towers, the Marine barracks, the hostage crisis, etc… There is American blood deliberately on the hands of this clerical clique.
    Would it have sent the right message to Iraqis and our erstwhile regional “allies”? Maybe it should’ve been followed up differently, but this is too complex and important a subject to be relegated to a game of gotcha punditry.

  4. hass

    Don’t forget Ahamdinejad’s offer in his UN speech to open up Iran’s nuclear program to foreign involvment – repeated here:

    Iran proposes creating nuclear energy consortium,
    invites foreign states -diplomat.

    Interfax Russia & CIS Business and Financial Newswire,
    Feb 7, 2007

    ALMATY Feb 7 (Interfax) – Iran is prepared to created
    a consortium, with the participation of foreign
    countries, for the implementation of its nuclear
    program and demonstrate that the program is
    exclusively civilian, Iranian Ambassador to Kazakhstan
    Romin Mehmonparast said…

  5. MTW

    There seem to be some interest in the Senate foreign relations committee on whether Rice is (obviously) blowing smoke. Sen. Dodd has a letter out to the state department calling her on this BS.


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