Flynt Leverett, known toreaders of this page as “OurMan Flynt,”continues to make hay in Washington by spreading tall tales about thewillingness of Iran’s clerical elite to “cut a deal”with the United States.
Not only are the mullahs willing to talk to us, says Flynt. Thealleged offer they made in April 2003 was “more substantive,more detailed, than the Chinese proposal that came into the Nixonadministration” that opened the way for Nixon’s trip toChina in 1972.
At a conference in Washington on Wednesday sponsored by thecenter-left New America Foundation, Leverett distributed copies ofthe one page Iranian proposal and a cover letter to the U.S.Department of State from Tim Guldemann, the Swiss ambassador toTehran who served as the intermediary for the Iranians.
Leverett said he “downloaded” the document from theWashingtonPost websiteonWednesday. The Washington Post said they obtained the document, “whichhad not been previously disclosed,” from “a source whofelt its contents were mischaracterized by State Departmentofficials.” Drip, drip.
Just coincidentally,Leverett on Wednesday accused Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice oflying to Congress andmisrepresenting the contents of the Iranian document when she wasquestioned about it last week. “Secretary Rice owes me anapology,” Leverett said with a pout.
Leverett says he first saw the document, which was faxed to the StateDepartment, “just days” before retiring from the CIA inMay 2003. He had just returned to CIA from a stint at the NationalSecurity Council, where he had been Senior Director for Middle EastInitiatives, and was processing out of government.
That means he came contact with the alleged Iranian “roadmap”while he was covered by his CIA non-disclosure agreement, whichprohibits him from discussing materials he encountered while workingfor CIA unless they have specifically been cleared by CIA forpublication. (CIA has repeatedly refused Leverett’s efforts toget this material declassified, a subject that has made him angry atthe Bush White House.)
Leverett enjoys tweaking the noses of government inquisitors,apparently without fear of Patrick Fitzgerald-style persecution (afate apparently reserved only for neo-cons like Scooter Libby).
“I know [the document] went up to Secretary Powell,”he says, “because my wife and sometimes co-author, HillaryMann, wrote a memo” to Powell and “attached a copy of thedocument” to it. Hillary Mann was then working at the StateDepartment’s Policy Planning Staff, and was enthusiastic aboutthe alleged Iranian proposal, he said.
Such a memo – if it were more than just a hand-written covernote –undoubtedly would have been classified. Law would bar itsunauthorized disclosure.
Leverett claims that Powell was intrigued by the Iranian offer, buttold him and his wife a few weeks later at a cocktail party that he “couldn’tsell it at the White House.”
This isn’t just the story of a leak – although it isthat, too. It is an effort by the Left to rewrite history at acritical time for U.S. policy toward Iran.
Leverett and his supporters at the New America Foundation would haveus believe that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,negotiated a single-spaced, one-page “roadmap” forresuming U.S.-Iranian relations that included Iran’srecognition of the state of Israel, and that he actually intended tokeep his side of the bargain.
This is credible because Iran “already negotiated with Israel”during the Iran-contra arms for hostage deals, Leverett argues.
He would also have us believe Khamenei was willing to cooperate withthe United States in stabilizing Iraq, and in weaning Hezbollah,Hamas and other groups from terrorism.
In exchange, the United States was to provide Iran with securityguarantees, including a pledge to “refrain from supporting”Iranian opposition groups, something – alas! – we haveyet to do in any serious way. The U.S. was also expected to acquiesceto Iran’s nuclear programs. And all this, was supposed to usherin Peace in Our Time.
There are too many problems with Leverett’s story to enumerate.But here are just two:
Ä¢ The Iranian regime has long conducted a dialoguewith the United States through a variety of diplomatic channels. Atthe time this alleged Iranian proposal was sent by the Swissambassador, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Iranian ambassador to theUN Javad Zarif were meeting regularly to discuss Afghanistan andIraq.
Had the Iranians wanted to make a new proposal to the U.S., that wasthe established, authoritative channel they would have used. TheSwiss embassy in Tehran was the least trusted of the several backchannels that then existed.
Ä¢ Ambassador Tim Guldimann writes in his coverletter to the alleged offer that he worked out the details of theproposal in several meetings with Sadeq Kharrazi, a former deputyforeign minister, nephew of the foreign minister at the time, andrelative of the Supreme Leader through marriage.
Guldimann claimed that Kharrazi presented the document to thenpresident Khatami and foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, where they “wentthrough every word of this paper.”
And yet, not long after Guldimann transmitted the “roadmap”document to the State Department, Kharrazi was arrested for “unauthorizedcontacts” with the United States. So much for “authoritative.”
As for the Islamic Republic of Iran, which regularly vows to “wipeIsrael off the map,” being secretly willing to recognizeIsrael, perhaps Leverett forgets that the faction of Supreme Leaderin waiting, Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, exposed the Iran-contra talks in1986, to head off any kind of deal with America and to head off eventacit recognition of Israel.
Why are Flynt Leverett and the Left bringing out a story that hardlymerits a footnote in a dusty history-book at this point in time?Because they still hope to convince the administration to strike a “grandbargain” with the regime in Iran.
Negotiating with this regime is a sucker’s game. It makesbuying a Persian carpet at a rigged auction look like a fantasticdeal. The Europeans negotiated with Tehran from 2003-2006. TheIranians agreed repeatedly to suspend their nuclear enrichmentprograms, and repeatedly broke their promises. That’s how wegot to where we are today.
This regime is simply trying to buy time as they perfect theirnuclear weapons program. And if they can also elicit a securityguarantee that will eliminate the one thing they truly fear –an organized, coordinated opposition, with support from the West –then they’ll throw in tea along with the carpet.
Today the Iranian regime and their sympathizers in Washington arehoping to sucker a wounded White House into a similar arrangement asthe one just announced by the U.S. with North Korea. Failing that,they plan to stretch out the negotiations until well after George W.Bush leaves the White House, when they think they can get a betterdeal from a Democratic administration.
Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Colin Powell throughouthis tenure as Secretary of State, lent support to Leverett’sfairy tale of a cooperative and reasonable Iran. He said that Powellthought the Swiss proposal “had the potential to besignificant,” but that “he never acted on it”because he was “awfully damned busy doing damage control.”
The Bush administration has “the most dysfunctional nationalsecurity decision-making process that we’ve had in a long time,”Wilkerson said.
He acknowledged that the Swiss ambassador’s communication “wasnot handled as it should have been, even at State.”
But when challenged by Washington Institute for Near East Policyscholar Patrick Clawson, Wilkerson admitted that the Swiss proposalhad been reviewed and rejected by the State Department’s topIran experts, who had seen dozens of such proposals in the past.
“In other words, the State Department professionals who knewIran best were not happy with it,” Clawson said.
“Yes,” Wilkerson acknowledged.
This week, we learn, the Swiss are at it again. The Debkafile reveals– and pro-regime websites in Tehran confirm – that “Swissemissaries” have floated yet another proposal for Peace in OurTime with Tehran.
This time they say that “Iran will be allowed to produce apredetermined quota of enriched uranium against its pledge not toexceed this limit or produce it up to weapons grade.”
To believe that any of these proposals are reasonable or valid, wehave to believe 1) that the regime is willing to publicly talk to theUnited States, 2) the regime is willing to place verifiable limits onits nuclear program, and 3) the regime can survive if it abandons itsanti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric.
It wasn’t true in 2003. And it isn’t true today.
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