Just the Fax Condi

While I’m on the subject of Rice, Michael Hirsh from Newsweek is pointing to a mistake made back when Rice was on the NSC that paved the way for more unilateral screeching at Iran.

The problem? A fax sent by the former pre-batshit-crazy-presidential Iranian government in 2003 requesting direct negotiations with Washington. The offer was ignored and of course America isn’t planning anything, there is no intent to attack Iran.

Still, “not planning or intending an attack” isn’t exactly the same thing as embracing diplomacy with Tehran. In fact, Bush has specifically rejected that idea unless Iran acts first to suspend its uranium-enrichment program. Mann, as well as former senior administration officials such as former secretary of State Colin Powell and his then-top deputy, Richard Armitage, say the president has ignored or played down a number of opportunities to negotiate—especially in the era before Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005. As Powell told NEWSWEEK in an interview this week: “You can’t negotiate when you tell the other side, ‘Give us what a negotiation would produce before the negotiations start.’”

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. Some officials who saw the proposal at the time, including Hillary Mann and her husband, Flynt Leverett, the former National Security Council (NSC) senior director for Mideast under Rice, have angrily criticized Rice and the administration for not taking it seriously.

An examination of the document is very interesting.

Some of the points on the table for Iran would probably have been acceptable to a normal government.

Iran wanted off the Axis of Evil list. The Americans should finally smackdown the Iranian People’s Mujahideen (MKO), an anti-Iranian group already officially declared to be a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US . (The Human Rights Watch doesn’t like the MKO and not even the French think these guys are OK. Probably using the old “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of logic, the neo-cons have tried to get the MKO un-designated. 150 Members of Congress and several top Administration officals, including former Attorney General John No-Naked-Statues-In-My-Justice-Department Ashcroft have lobbied to get the designation changed.)

Less acceptable would have been “Full access to peaceful nuclear technology, biotechnology and chemical technology” and “Abolishment of all sanctions: commercial sanctions, frozen assets, judgments(FSIA), impediments in international trade and financial institutions.”

This would have been like building nueclear reactors in North Korea to keep them from building a bomb. Where would that have led? (What? The Norks built the bomb from material that had been under seal until America found an excuse to renege on that deal? Oh. Whatever. They are still so Axis of Evil!)

And what was Iran offering? No WMD’s and full cooperation with the IAEA, decisive action against terrorists like al Quaeda, coordination on the stabilization in Iran. Nothing important.

Oh. And on those pesky Israel/Palestine/Lebanon problems?

  1. stop of any material support to Palestinian opposition groups (Hamas, Jihad etc.) from Iranian territory, pressure on these organizations to stop violent action against civilians within borders of 1967.
  2. action on Hizbollah to become a mere political organization within Lebanon
  3. acceptance of the Arab League Beirut declaration (Saudi initiative, two-states-approach)

No. Nothing there to talk about. Letting Israel “kick Hizbollah’s ass” was far more effective. And Palestine seems to have settled down nicely since 2003.

The article goes on to talk about both the unclear origins of the document and the fact that everyone is now saying they didn’t see it. No one had anything to do with it. They know nothing— absolutely nothing. But the article also points out that the President and his closest advisors also don’t believe the Iranian government is legitimate and that Iran is a “ripe apple.” That’s comforting.

Oddly, despite everything the Administration screws up, the pressure on Iran may be working. There are signs that Iranians aren’t too happy with Ahmadinejad. (Who would be?) Thus Iran may at least be coming back to the table on the nuclear thing.

But the Iranians are also holding a military exercise this month and are claiming to have tested missiles could sink “big warships.” While the exercise thing is true, experts are saying the missile thing is BS. Of course, the US also claimed Iran couldn’t take pictures of the American carriers using UAVs.

So Condi. Just give us the facts not the spin.

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