United States Missed One-on-One Negotiations with Iran in 2003 Before Nuclear Standoff

United States Missed One-on-One Negotiations with Iran in 2003 Before Nuclear Standoff

Although the United States has entered European sponsored talks with Iran, new information now indicates that we had the opportunity to negotiate with the Iranians in 2003 before they were spinning centrifuges and enriching uranium. A document, which surfaced just recently, has been authenticated by the Washington Post.

Then senior director on the National Security Council, Flynt Leverett described the Iranian correspondence as “a serious effort, a respectable effort to lay out a comprehensive agenda for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement." Washington Post staff writer, Glenn Kessler says that several former administration officials say the United States missed an opportunity in 2003.

The document was obtained from Iranian sources by Middle East experts at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In 2003 the Iranians wanted to end sanctions and peaceful access to nuclear technology and a recognition of its "legitimate security interests."

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said Iran agreed to put a series of U.S. aims on the agenda, including full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, "decisive action" against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending "material support" for Palestinian militias and accepting the Saudi initiative for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Iranians were also willing to work with the US on ending terrorism. The document was to lay out an agenda for negotiations, with possible steps to be achieved at a first meeting and the development of negotiating road maps on disarmament, terrorism and economic cooperation.

It could have been better to negotiate with the Iranians back then than now, according to some Middle East watchers. Back then they were willing to negotiate with the US one-on-one, but now the talks involve other European countries with their own agendas. This could place the US in a weaker position to negotiate, according to some experts.

A national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, Paul R. Pillar said now there is “less daylight between the United States and Europe, thanks in part to Rice's energetic diplomacy." He says this was just one attempt in many attempts to engage the Bush administration in talks.

The head of policy planning at the State Department back then, Richard N. Haass said “I think there have been a lot of lost opportunities." The Post reports Haass as saying "To use an oil analogy, we could have drilled a dry hole. But I didn't see what we had to lose. I did not share the assessment of many in the administration that the Iranian regime was on the brink."

By Dan Wilson

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