Flynt Leverett, known to readers of this page as “Our Man Flynt,” continues to make hay in Washington by spreading tall tales about the willingness 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. The alleged offer they made in April 2003 was “more substantive, more detailed, than the Chinese proposal that came into the Nixon administration” that opened the way for Nixon’s trip to China in 1972.
At a conference in Washington on Wednesday sponsored by the center-left New America Foundation, Leverett distributed copies of the one page Iranian proposal and a cover letter to the U.S. Department of State from Tim Guldemann, the Swiss ambassador to Tehran who served as the intermediary for the Iranians.
Leverett said he “downloaded” the document from the Washington Post website on Wednesday. The Washington Post said they obtained the document, “which had not been previously disclosed,” from “a source who felt its contents were mischaracterized by State Department officials.” Drip, drip.
Just coincidentally, Leverett on Wednesday accused Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice of lying to Congress and misrepresenting the contents of the Iranian document when she was questioned about it last week. “Secretary Rice owes me an apology,” Leverett said with a pout.
Leverett says he first saw the document, which was faxed to the State Department, “just days” before retiring from the CIA in May 2003. He had just returned to CIA from a stint at the National Security Council, where he had been Senior Director for Middle East Initiatives, 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, which prohibits him from discussing materials he encountered while working for CIA unless they have specifically been cleared by CIA for publication. (CIA has repeatedly refused Leverett’s efforts to get this material declassified, a subject that has made him angry at the Bush White House.)
Leverett enjoys tweaking the noses of government inquisitors, apparently without fear of Patrick Fitzgerald-style persecution (a fate 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, Hillary Mann, wrote a memo” to Powell and “attached a copy of the document” to it. Hillary Mann was then working at the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, and was enthusiastic about the alleged Iranian proposal, he said.
Such a memo – if it were more than just a hand-written cover note –undoubtedly would have been classified. Law would bar its unauthorized disclosure.
Leverett claims that Powell was intrigued by the Iranian offer, but told him and his wife a few weeks later at a cocktail party that he “couldn’t sell it at the White House.”
This isn’t just the story of a leak – although it is that, too. It is an effort by the Left to rewrite history at a critical time for U.S. policy toward Iran.
Leverett and his supporters at the New America Foundation would have us believe that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, negotiated a single-spaced, one-page “roadmap” for resuming U.S.-Iranian relations that included Iran’s recognition of the state of Israel, and that he actually intended to keep 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 with the 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 security guarantees, including a pledge to “refrain from supporting” Iranian opposition groups, something – alas! – we have yet to do in any serious way. The U.S. was also expected to acquiesce to Iran’s nuclear programs. And all this, was supposed to usher in Peace in Our Time.
There are too many problems with Leverett’s story to enumerate. But here are just two:
• The Iranian regime has long conducted a dialogue with the United States through a variety of diplomatic channels. At the time this alleged Iranian proposal was sent by the Swiss ambassador, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Iranian ambassador to the UN Javad Zarif were meeting regularly to discuss Afghanistan and Iraq.
Had the Iranians wanted to make a new proposal to the U.S., that was the established, authoritative channel they would have used. The Swiss embassy in Tehran was the least trusted of the several back channels that then existed.
• Ambassador Tim Guldimann writes in his cover letter to the alleged offer that he worked out the details of the proposal in several meetings with Sadeq Kharrazi, a former deputy foreign minister, nephew of the foreign minister at the time, and relative of the Supreme Leader through marriage.
Guldimann claimed that Kharrazi presented the document to then president Khatami and foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, where they “went through every word of this paper.”
And yet, not long after Guldimann transmitted the “roadmap” document to the State Department, Kharrazi was arrested for “unauthorized contacts” with the United States. So much for “authoritative.”
• As for the Islamic Republic of Iran, which regularly vows to “wipe Israel off the map,” being secretly willing to recognize Israel, perhaps Leverett forgets that the faction of Supreme Leader in waiting, Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, exposed the Iran-contra talks in 1986, to head off any kind of deal with America and to head off even tacit recognition of Israel.
Why are Flynt Leverett and the Left bringing out a story that hardly merits a footnote in a dusty history-book at this point in time? Because they still hope to convince the administration to strike a “grand bargain” with the regime in Iran.
Negotiating with this regime is a sucker’s game. It makes buying a Persian carpet at a rigged auction look like a fantastic deal. The Europeans negotiated with Tehran from 2003-2006. The Iranians agreed repeatedly to suspend their nuclear enrichment programs, and repeatedly broke their promises. That’s how we got to where we are today.
This regime is simply trying to buy time as they perfect their nuclear weapons program. And if they can also elicit a security guarantee 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 are hoping to sucker a wounded White House into a similar arrangement as the 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 better deal from a Democratic administration.
Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Colin Powell throughout his tenure as Secretary of State, lent support to Leverett’s fairy tale of a cooperative and reasonable Iran. He said that Powell thought the Swiss proposal “had the potential to be significant,” but that “he never acted on it” because he was “awfully damned busy doing damage control.”
The Bush administration has “the most dysfunctional national security decision-making process that we’ve had in a long time,” Wilkerson said.
He acknowledged that the Swiss ambassador’s communication “was not handled as it should have been, even at State.”
But when challenged by Washington Institute for Near East Policy scholar Patrick Clawson, Wilkerson admitted that the Swiss proposal had been reviewed and rejected by the State Department’s top Iran experts, who had seen dozens of such proposals in the past.
“In other words, the State Department professionals who knew Iran 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 “Swiss emissaries” have floated yet another proposal for Peace in Our Time with Tehran.
This time they say that “Iran will be allowed to produce a predetermined quota of enriched uranium against its pledge not to exceed this limit or produce it up to weapons grade.”
To believe that any of these proposals are reasonable or valid, we have to believe 1) that the regime is willing to publicly talk to the United States, 2) the regime is willing to place verifiable limits on its nuclear program, and 3) the regime can survive if it abandons its anti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric.
It wasn’t true in 2003. And it isn’t true today.
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