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White House ‘Reprimanded Swiss Ambassador’ For Delivering 2003 Iranian Offer For Negotiations

By Faiz Shakir on February 26, 2007 at 4:31 pm

"White House ‘Reprimanded Swiss Ambassador’ For Delivering 2003 Iranian Offer For Negotiations"

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parsiIn an interview with Democracy Now, Trita Parsi — former congressional aide to ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) — disclosed more details about his recent revelation that an Iranian offer for negotiations with the Bush administration was delivered to senior political adviser Karl Rove in 2003.

According to Parsi, Rove confirmed receipt of the Iranian offer two hours after it was delivered to him, calling it “intriguing.” Subsequently, Parsi claims there was a “discussion about this at the highest level in the Bush administration.” Hard-liners, led by Dick Cheney, immediately rejected it, even going so far as to “reprimand the Swiss ambassador for having delivered it.”

CLICK HERE FOR AUDIO

Parsi echoed the allegations of former NSC official Flynt Leverett, who has said that Condoleezza Rice — then National Security Adviser — saw the offer. Rice now says, “I don’t know what Flynt Leverett’s talking about.” Weighing in on the dispute, Parsi said, “I find it highly unlikely that they did not see it. I frankly believe that it’s beyond unlikely that they didn’t see.”

Full transcript can be found HERE. Transcript of the segment below:

TRITA PARSI: So this channel has been used on numerous occasions by the United States and by Iran to be able to send messages to each other. And this time around, the Iranians gave a proposal to the Swiss ambassador that he then sent to the Swiss foreign ministry in Bern, who faxed it onto the State Department, but the Swiss ambassador also made a personal visit to Washington, D.C. to brief the State Department about the proposal, and he also made sure that he met with Congressman Ney, who has been a longtime advocate for negotiations and dialogue between the United States and Iran, and he handed him the proposal, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, the Swiss ambassador was Tim Guldimann?

TRITA PARSI: Correct.

AMY GOODMAN: And he then got this proposal to the man you worked for, Congressmember Ney?

TRITA PARSI: Exactly. I was an advisor to Bob Ney at the time. And Tim met with Bob and handed over the proposal to him. And Bob afterwards sent it to be hand-delivered to the White House to Karl Rove, and Karl Rove called back within two hours, and they had a brief discussion about the proposal.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did Karl Rove say?

TRITA PARSI: Well, he basically said that it was an intriguing proposal. He first wanted to know if it authentic, and the congressman assured him that it was, according to what the Swiss ambassador had said. And we have to remember, the Swiss ambassador would not be handing over proposals to the United States unless they were authentic. The Swiss ambassador’s work has been requested by the US, not by the Iranians.

[...]

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about this proposal that came to the US? You have Karl Rove who knew, the very close relationship between — well, it was Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice who went with President Bush to South Korea, just them together. Do you have any awareness or knowledge of President Bush knowing about this?

TRITA PARSI: Well, according to many people that I have interviewed in the Bush administration, they did have a discussion about this at the highest level in the Bush administration, and basically the hard line of the Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld basically ensured that they would not proceed with the negotiations. In fact, they actually reprimanded the Swiss ambassador for having delivered it.

And the argument by the hardliners, the hawks in the Washington — in the White House at the time was basically that Iran is weak and it’s giving this proposal precisely because of the fact that it is fearful of the United States and that the US can achieve more by taking on the Iranian regime and just removing it than by negotiating. So we had this situation in which, back then, because of America’s strength, the Bush administration argued that it could not negotiate.

And we have the opposite situation right now. Now, the Bush administration is saying that because it’s weak, it cannot negotiate. But if you can’t negotiate when you’re strong, because you’re strong, and you can’t negotiate when you’re weak, because you’re weak, that basically means that you’re not interested in negotiations at all.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read you a clip by Gareth Porter, “Rove Said to Have Received 2003 Iranian Proposal.” And it says that “the identification of Rove as a recipient of the secret Iranian proposal throws new light on the question of who in the Bush administration was aware of the Iranian proposal at the time. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied in Congressional testimony [last week] that she had seen the Iranian offer in 2003 and even chastised former State Department, National Security Council and [Central Intelligence Agency] official Flynt Leverett for having failed to bring it to her attention at the time.

“At a Capital Hill conference on U.S.-Iran relations Wednesday, sponsored by the New America Foundation and [your organization, Trita Parsi] NIAC, Leverett responded to Rice’s criticism by saying it was ‘unthinkable that it would not have been brought to her attention’ and [demanding] an apology from her.”

TRITA PARSI: Well, I would agree that it is absolutely unthinkable that a proposal of this importance would not have reached the Secretary of State or at the time the National Security Advisor, particularly mindful of the fact that Flynt Leverett, who was at the NSC at the time, did see it — his wife Hillary Mann, who was also at the NSC, did see it — who had a discussion with Colin Powell about it, according to his testimony at our conference two weeks ago. So I find it highly unlikely that they did not see it. I frankly believe that it’s beyond unlikely that they didn’t see.

But, again, I think it’s partly because of the fact that they’re fearful that if there are going to be any negotiations down the road, not negotiations that they themselves choose to have, but they’re basically forced to have, that they don’t want the result of those negotiations to be compared to what they could have achieved back in 2003.

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