Revealed: how George W Bush offered to bring Iran back into the international fold

 

Robert Tait
Monday 14 May 2012 12:21
Comments
George W Bush is said to have offered a grand bargain in 2004
George W Bush is said to have offered a grand bargain in 2004

Iran spurned a previously undisclosed American offer from President George W Bush of talks aimed at reaching a "grand bargain" over long-standing differences between Washington and Tehran, a leading figure in the country's theocratic regime has revealed.

The proposal was made in 2004 – before the controversy over Tehran's suspected nuclear plans reached a crisis point resulting in sanctions – and passed on to Hassan Rowhani, head of Iran's supreme national security council at the time, by the then director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed el-Baradei.

It was rejected on the orders of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic system's most powerful cleric who has the final say over all state matters. "The decision was taken by the nezam [system] that that we shouldn't at that point negotiate with America," Mr Rowhani, who led Iran's nuclear negotiating team under the reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, told an Iranian magazine, Mehrnameh.

His disclosure casts new light on the efforts to repair US-Iran relations, which have been frozen since the 1979-81 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran by Islamist revolutionaries. It may also be seen as an effort by Iranian pragmatists to pressure Mr Khamenei into being more flexible in the revived nuclear talks due to resume in Baghdad on 23 May.

Previously, the Bush administration has been seen as hostile to rapprochement with Iran, while Barack Obama is credited with departing from that policy by offering to "reach out a hand" to Tehran.

Analysts have cited the rejection of an earlier Iranian request to open negotiations in 2003 in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq. That proposal – communicated through the Swiss embassy – was reportedly knocked back by the White House with the rejoinder: "We don't talk to evil."

However, Mr Bush apparently took a different tack when Mr Baradei visited Washington in the spring of 2004 to discuss Iran. He proposed that Tehran send an official to America with "full authority" to negotiate "all issues".

Mr Bush reportedly made his surprising offer when Mr Baradei urged US participation in the negotiations over the Iranian nuclear programme, being led at the time by the European trio of Britain, France and Germany. "Bush in response said: why the nuclear issue? Why don't we solve all the issues between us," Mr Rowhani recalls Mr Baradei quoting the US President.

The IAEA chief was so taken aback that he phoned Mr Rowhani asking for an immediate meeting in Tehran. Referring to Iran's rejection, Mr Rowhani compared the difference between talking to the Europeans and the US to that between travelling in a Peykan, an Iranian car based on the Hillman Hunter, or a Mercedes Benz. "Our decision was not to drive the Mercedes Benz, so we drove the Peykan," he said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in