Burnt Offering

BURNT OFFERING….Gareth Porter has a terrific article in the American Prospect this month about the entire arc of Iranian-American relations since 9/11. In the beginning, things were looking up:

As America began preparing for the military operation in Afghanistan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker held a series of secret meetings with Iranian officials in Geneva. In those meetings, Iran offered search-and-rescue help, humanitarian assistance, and even advice on which targets to bomb in Afghanistan, according to one former administration official. The Iranians, who had been working for years with the main anti-Taliban coalition, the Northern Alliance, also advised the Americans about how to negotiate the major ethnic and political fault lines in the country.

Then came the infamous “axis of evil” speech, and progress stalled because the Cheney bloc in the White House was convinced that Iran would disintegrate all on its own. That didn’t happen, of course, and after the Iraq War we received yet another overture from Iran. I blogged about that a couple of days ago, but Porter provides even more detail about exactly what the Iranians proposed:

The proposal offered ?decisive action against any terrorists (above all, al-Qaeda) in Iranian territory?….To meet the U.S. concern about an Iranian nuclear weapons program, the document offered to accept much tighter controls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for ?full access to peaceful nuclear technology.?

….The Iranian proposal also offered a sweeping reorientation of Iranian policy toward Israel….The document offered ?acceptance of the Arab League Beirut declaration (Saudi initiative, two-states approach).?

….The document also offered a ?stop of any material support to Palestinian opposition groups (Hamas, Jihad, etc.) from Iranian territory? and…?action on Hizbollah to become a mere political organization within Lebanon.?

….Finally, its aims included ?respect for Iranian national interests in Iraq and religious links to Najaf/Karbal.?….The list of Iranian aims also included an end to U.S. ?hostile behavior and rectification of status of Iran in the U.S.,? including its removal from the ?axis of evil? and the ?terrorism list,? and an end to all economic sanctions against Iran.

There’s more detail in the full story, and it’s well worth a read. The Iranian proposal clearly wasn’t something we’d be willing to accept in toto, but it was just as clearly an extremely detailed and serious starting point. Ignoring it was a world class misjudgment.