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Purported Iranian letter of 2003 proposing cooperation with USA

April (?) 2003

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The following purports to summarize the contents of a letter sent by the Iranian government to the United States government in 2003, proposing broad concessions to the United States, including cessation of terror and adoption of the Arab peace initiative, in return for a softening of the US attitude to Iran. The letter was sent via the Swiss government, which represents US interests in Iran.

News reports have mentioned the existence of such a letter, or perhaps two different letters, which were part of a broad Iranian peace initiative that apparently had the blessing of the highest ranks of the Iranian government, in the spring of 2003. A Financial Times article of July 15, 2003 by Guy Dinmore (Entire source is here: Iranian peace overtures in 2003 )  claimed:

Iran has communicated to the US its readiness to open direct talks about its nuclear programme as a first step towards tackling other issues, such as terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but US officials say the Bush administration is keeping the door closed.

Tehran's overtures have been conducted mainly through Mohammad Javad Zarif, its ambassador to the United Nations in New York, in discussions with Americans in close contact with the Bush administration, including at least one former senior official.

That Iran's leadership was ready to open a dialogue with the US was also conveyed by Tim Guldimann, the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, in a recent visit to Washington. Switzerland represents US interests in Iran.

But although the US is seeking a dialogue with North Korea, a member of President George W. Bush's "axis of evil", and is engaged in talks with other "rogue states", such as Libya and Syria, US officials say there is little appetite for negotiations with Iran.

"We are not reaching out at this point," said a State Department official, adding that the matter was still under review.

Within the Bush administration some officials advocate "regime change" as its Iran policy, while a minority proposes engagement. But the prevailing view is that the US has been effective in working with the European Union and Japan to put economic pressure on Iran.

The existence of such a letter was also claimed by Flynt Leverett in a New York Times article of January 24, 2006. He wrote:

In the spring of 2003, shortly before I left government, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sent Washington a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve bilateral differences. The document acknowledged that Iran would have to address concerns about its weapons programs and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. It was presented as having support from all major players in Iran's power structure, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. A conversation I had shortly after leaving the government with a senior conservative Iranian official strongly suggested that this was the case. Unfortunately, the administration's response was to complain that the Swiss diplomats who passed the document from Tehran to Washington were out of line.

( source - http://www.brookings.edu/views/op-ed/fleverett/20060124.htm )

He referred to the letter again in an interview dated March 31, 2006. He believes the letter, sent in late April or in May of 2003, was prompted by the start of the US invasion of Iraq, which made the Iranian government of reformist former President Khatami believe that it had to come to terms with the USA. According to Leverett, the US government refused to consider the letter and reprimanded the Swiss for passing it on.

Leverett referred to this letter as a one page document. Elsewhere, (http://www.antiwar.com/orig/porter.php?articleid=9040) it is alleged to be a two page document by Gareth Porter. It is thought that there were at least two separate documents, one of which was hand carried by an unnamed American intermediary.

According to Porter, the significance of the document is that:

The two-page document contradicts the official line of the George W. Bush administration that Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel and the sponsorship of terrorism in the region.

According to a Newsday story of February 19, 2006  the letter was initiated by Sadegh Kharazi, Iran's ambassador to France and nephew of Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi and passed on by the Swiss ambassador to Tehran. It is not clear that Kharazi had the blessing of the Iranian government. It is assumed that the document reflect Iranian reaction to the US invasion of Iraq, which was then in the first flushes of success.

Owing to the nature of this document, we are including a facsimile of original that is circulating, below the text version. It bears no marks that could indicate provenance or authenticity. It is not clear who added bold emphasis to certain passages in the document. It is very likely an annex to the formal cover letter that was sent. We have been assured by two sources that this document is authentic, and that it is the one discussed by Gareth Porter.

If the letter is authentic, then its rejection by the United States sheds new light on the Iranian nuclear development crisis.

Further commentary and sources regarding Iranian peace overtures in 2003:

Iranian peace overtures in 2003

Did Iran make a peace offer to the United States in 2003?

Ami Isseroff

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Summary of letter purportedly sent by Iran to the US government in the spring of 2003

Iranian aims:
(The US accepts a dialogue "in mutual respect" and agrees that Iran puts the following aims on the agenda)

  • Halt in US hostile behavior and rectification of status of Iran in the US:  (interference in internal or external relations, "axis of evil", terrorism list.)
  • Abolishment of all sanctions: commercial sanctions, frozen assets, judgments(FSIA), impediments in international trade and financial institutions
  • Iraq: democratic and fully representative government in Iraq, support of Iranian claims for Iraqi reparations, respect for Iranian national interests in Iraq and religious links to Najaf/Karbal.
  • Full access to peaceful nuclear technology, biotechnology and chemical technology
  • Recognition of Iran's legitimate security interests in the region with according defense capacity.
  • Terrorism: pursuit of anti-Iranian terrorists, above all MKO and support for repatriation of their members in Iraq, decisive action against anti Iranian terrorists, above all MKO and affiliated organizations in the US


US aims: (Iran accepts a dialogue "in mutual respect" and agrees that the US puts the following aims on the agenda)

  1. WMD: full transparency for security that there are no Iranian endeavors to develop or possess WMD, full cooperation with IAEA based on Iranian adoption of all relevant instruments (93+2 and all further IAEA protocols)
  2. Terrorism: decisive action against any terrorists (above all Al Qaida) on Iranian territory, full cooperation and exchange of all relevant information.
  3. Iraq: coordination of Iranian influence for activity supporting political stabilization and the establishment of democratic institutions and a non-religious government.
  4. Middle East:
    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)


      I.      Communication of mutual agreement on the following procedure
     II.     Mutual simultaneous statements "We have always been ready for direct and authoritative talks with the US/with Iran in good faith and with the aim of discussing - in mutual respect - our common interests and our mutual concerns based on merits and objective realities, but we have always made it clear that, such talks can only be held, if genuine progress for a solution of our own concerns can be achieved."
   III.      A first direct meeting on the appropriate level (for instance in Paris) will be held with the previously agreed aims

a. of a decision on the first mutual steps

  • Iraq: establishment of a common group, active Iranian support for Iraq stabilization, US-commitment to actively support Iranian reparation claims within the discussions on Iraq foreign debts.

  • Terorrism: US-commitment to disarm and remove MKO from Iraq and take action in accordance with SCR1373 against its leadership, Iranian commitment for enhanced action against Al Qaida members in Iran, agreement on cooperation and information exchange

  •  Iranian general statement "to support a peaceful solution in the Middle East involving the parties concerned"

  •  US general statement that "Iran did not belong to 'the axis of evil'"

  •  US-acceptance to halt its impediments against Iran in international financial and trade institutions

b.    of the establishment of the parallel working groups on disarmament, regional security and economic cooperation.  Their aim is an agreement on three parallel road maps, for the discussions of these working groups, each side accepts that the other side's aims (see above) are put on the agenda:

1)       Disarmament: road map, which combines the mutual aims of, on the one side, full transparency by international commitments and guarantees to abstain from WMD with, on the other side, full access to western technology (in the three areas),

2)       Terrorism and regional security: road map for above mentioned aims on the Middle east and terrorism

3)       Economic cooperation: road map for the abolishment of the sanctions, rescinding of judgments, and un-freezing of assets


c.       of agreement on a time-table for implementation

d.      and of a public statement after this first meeting on the achieved agreements

Graphic facsimile of the document

 (Page 1 above - Page 2 Below)

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