Iranian peace offer snubbed by Rove


Richard Moore

No surprise here.


Original source URL:

Ex-Congressional Aide: Karl Rove Personally Received (And Ignored) Iranian Peace
Offer in 2003

Monday, February 26th, 2007

As Seymour Hersh reports the Pentagon has created a special panel to plan a 
bombing attack on Iran, we examine how the Bush administration ignored a secret 
offer to negotiate with Iran in 2003. We speak with the National Iranian 
American Council's Trita Parsi, a former aide to Republican congressman Bob Ney.
[includes rush transcript]

While the Bush administration continues to insist it has no plans to go to war 
with Iran, the New Yorker magazine is reporting the Pentagon has created a 
special panel to plan a bombing attack on Iran that could be implemented within 
24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President Bush. According to investigative
journalist Seymour Hersh, the planning group was established within the office 
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent months.

In response to the report, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman denied the US was 
planning to go to war with Iran and said "To suggest anything to the contrary is
simply wrong, misleading and mischievous." Whitman went on to say the White 
House is continuing to address concerns in the region through diplomatic 

This comes against the backdrop of last week's allegation that Bush's chief 
advisor Karl Rove personally received a copy of a secret offer from the Iranian 
government to hold negotiations four years ago. The Bush administration decided 
to ignore the grand bargain offer. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice recently 
claimed she had never even seen the document. At the time Iran said it would 
consider far-reaching compromises on its nuclear program, relations with 
Hezbollah and Hamas and support for a Palestinian peace agreement with Israel.

Rove's involvement was revealed by an aide to former Republican congressman Bob 
Ney. The aide, Trita Parsi, said Ney was chosen by the Swiss Ambassador in 
Tehran to carry the Iranian proposal to the White House because he knew the Ohio
Congressman to be the only Farsi-speaking member of Congress and particularly 
interested in Iran.

Trita Parsi joins me now from Washington DC. He is the President of the National
Iranian American Council, the largest Iranian-American organization in the US. 
His forthcoming book is "Treacherous Triangle - The Secret Dealings of Iran, 
Israel and the United States."

€  Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the 
largest Iranian-American organization in the US. He is author of the forthcoming
book "Treacherous Triangle - The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United 


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AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi joins me now from Washington, D.C. He is president of 
the National Iranian American Council, the largest Iran American organization in
the United States. His forthcoming book is called Treacherous Triangle: The 
Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States. Welcome to Democracy Now!

TRITA PARSI: Thank you for having me, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain exactly what this memo, this proposal was, coming from 
Iran, and how you say it made its way to the highest levels of the US 

TRITA PARSI: Well, this is back in May 2003. The United States had just defeated
Saddam in less than three weeks, and I think there were a lot of feelings inside
Iran that they needed to present some sort of a negotiation deal with the United
States. But what they presented was quite similar to many things that they had 
communicated verbally to the United States over the last couple of years. 
Basically, they said the United States has a couple of aims, Iran has a couple 
of aims, and there is a process to be able to proceed with the negotiations.

And what the Iranians agreed to discuss as a framework of the negotiations was 
how to disarm the Hezbollah, how to end support to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, how 
to open up the nuclear program, how to help the United States stabilize Iraq, 
and, in short, that the government there would not along sectarian lines, and 
also how to sign onto the Beirut Declaration, which is basically a former 
recognition of the two-state solution. These are far-reaching compromises that 
Iran potentially would have agreed to in the negotiations, but the Bush 
administration, as you reported, decided simply not to respond to the proposal.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain how it made its way from Iran to the US government?

TRITA PARSI: The United States, back in 1991, established the Swiss embassy in 
Iran as a go-between between the United States and Iran. The US needed a channel
of communication, a reliable channel of communication between the two countries 
just to ensure that the war in Iraq back in 1991 would not cause any 
misunderstandings between Iran and the United States that could be dangerous. 
That channel was then afterwards in existence, and the Swiss ambassador to Iran 
is a person that usually visits the US every six months and gives a report to 
the United States to State Department, sometimes to Congress, about what the 
situation in Iran is, mindful of the fact that the US itself does not have any 
diplomats in Iran. 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?

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 ambassador¹s work has been requested by 
the US, not by the Iranians. So he is basically fulfilling a mission that has 
been given to him by the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: We¹re going to break, then come back to you, Trita Parsi, president
of the National Iranian American Council, was the former consultant for, aide 
for Congressmember Bob Ney. This is Democracy Now! Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian 
American Council, largest Iranian American group in the United States, author of
the forthcoming book, Treacherous Triangle: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel 
and the United States, saying that the Bush administration, Karl Rove, received 
a memo in 2003 that Iranian leaders backed comprehensive negotiations with the 
United States. Now, Trita Parsi, Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, was 
questioned about this document several weeks ago on Capitol Hill. She said she 
didn't recall seeing it when she was National Security Advisor. ³I just don't 
remember ever seeing any such thing,² she said. Your response?

TRITA PARSI: Well, I think part of the reason why the Secretary of State 
currently is using the terminology of saying that she doesn't recall seeing it 
may be because the Bush administration senses that it may be forced to negotiate
with Iran down the road, particularly if this surge policy is a failure, which a
lot of people predict that it will be. And as a result, they don't want the 
negotiations, the potential future negotiations, with Iran to be compared to 
what they could have achieved with Iran back in 2003, because clearly the United
States is in a much weaker position today than it was back then. And I think it 
would look bad for the administration to come to a deal with Iran now that would
be substantially worse than the deal they could have achieved back in 2003. And 
I think they want to avoid that type of a comparison.

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

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 it¹s 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 it¹s weak, it cannot negotiate. But if you can¹t negotiate 
when you¹re strong, because you¹re strong, and you can¹t negotiate when you¹re 
weak, because you¹re weak, that basically means that you¹re not interested in 
negotiations at all.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read you a clip by Gareth Porter, ³Rove Said to Have 
Received 2003 Iranian Proposal.² And it says that ³the 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 

³At 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 Œunthinkable that it would not 
have been brought to her attention¹ and [demanding] an apology from her.²

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 it¹s 
beyond unlikely that they didn't see.

But, again, I think it¹s partly because of the fact that they¹re fearful that if
there are going to be any negotiations down the road, not negotiations that they
themselves choose to have, but they¹re 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.

AMY GOODMAN: What has Ney said about this -- I mean, now disgraced, involved 
with the Abramoff scandal, in jail -- what are his comments?

TRITA PARSI: Well, I can't speak for him, but I think there may be some 
indications from him in which he will come out with his side of the story, as 

But let me say one thing about the impact that this has had on the Iranians, 
because I was in Iran back in 2004, doing interviews for my book, which has a 
lot of details about this proposal. And what was really interesting is that when
the Iranians put this on the table and they were basically offering significant 
policy modifications in the hope that this would be able to open up a new 
chapter in the relationship with the United States, when the United States, when
the Bush administration did not even respond to it, that left Tehran with the 
impression that the US does not necessarily have problems with Iranian policies.
What the US¹s problem lies is with Iran's power. So if you can¹t give any 
concessions to the Bush administration that would be able to change the nature 
of this relationship, then why give concessions to begin with? And that is part 
of the reason why Iran's position has strengthened and hardened so much over the
last couple of years. It¹s mainly because of the failure of the Iranian 
government to be able to reach an understanding with the United States by 
offering concessions. So now they¹re trying to do the same by playing it very, 
very tough.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your response, Trita Parsi, to Seymour Hersh¹s 
piece in The New Yorker, that the Pentagon has established a special planning 
group within the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to plan an attack on Iran.

TRITA PARSI: Well, I think that these are things that we¹ve been hearing quite a
lot here in Washington for quite some time now. And it is quite likely -- it is 
also quite likely that the Bush administration is using the revelation of this 
and this flourishing of articles saying that the Bush administration is about to
strike as a pressuring tactic against Tehran, this psychological warfare that 
seems to be going on right now. But one of the elements that I think we¹ve seen 
very clear evidence for is this shift in the US's policy in the Middle East, in 
which it is now increasingly siding with the Sunni states and even turning a 
blind eye to their extensive support for al-Qaeda and jihadist groups, including
in Iraq, groups that are killing Americans far more than the Shiites are, and 
pursuing that, not in order to stabilize Iraq, but in order to weaken Iran and 
re-establish the type of balance in the region that they feel is more beneficial
to the United States, but is also the same balance that has been creating a war 
in the Middle East every five to ten years over the last fifty years.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me follow up on this point, because it is certainly a key one. 
Seymour Hersh, in The New Yorker magazine, reporting that the Bush 
administration and Saudi Arabia are pumping money for covert operations in many 
areas of the Middle East, including Lebanon, Syria and Iran, in an effort to 
strengthen Saudi-sported Sunni Islam group and weaken Iranian-backed Shias. Some
of the covert money has been given to jihadist groups in Lebanon with ties to 
al-Qaeda. So, supporting the Sunnis over the Shia and working with Saudi Arabia 
to funnel that money.

TRITA PARSI: And basically says that the United States is not trying to resolve 
the civil war in Iraq. Rather, it¹s taking sides in the civil war. And 
ironically, it¹s taking the same side as al-Qaeda is doing.

AMY GOODMAN: And the second part of the story, that John Negroponte, Seymour 
Hersh reports, may well have resigned his post as National Intelligence 
director, because of his discomfort that the administration's covert actions in 
the Middle East so closely echoed the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.

TRITA PARSI: I think one thing to keep in mind in all of this is that the United
States does have legitimate grievances with the Iranian government and the 
policies that they have been pursuing. But the problem is that the line that the
Bush administration is pursuing is only making matters worse in the region right
now. It is further destabilizing the region. It¹s further making it more 
difficult to be able to find a solution to Iraq. The only solution that I can 
see is to actually bring all the parties to the table. And that, of course, also
includes not only the Iranians, but also the Saudis.

Part of the fear that countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel have, is that 
if the United States strikes a bilateral deal with Iran, it will come at the 
expense of countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. And that¹s what they¹re 
trying to prevent at this stage. But it¹s only adding more fuel to the tensions 
in the region. And that¹s why I think the Iraq Study Group's recommendation was 
the most effective one, the most successful one, if the United States can bring 
all the parties to the table in order to find a multilateral solution to the 
problems in the region.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi, why come out with these documents right now? This is 
years later. This is, what, some three, four years later.

TRITA PARSI: Well, I was holding this document for quite some time. I did not 
come out with it until I saw that Flynt Leverett had, because Flynt was in the 
White House at the time, and I was basically someone who was an advisor to a 
congressman and I happened to see it. Part of the reason why I decided to come 
out, speak about it and also provide a document to a lot of journalists was 
because I was very fearful last year that the Bush administration was getting 
very close to military conflict with Iran and that the talk in town was that the
Iranians are not interested in a deal, that the Iranians would never negotiate, 
a lot of these false assumptions about Iran that I felt was just helping hawks 
being able to bring this situation closer to closer to war. And I wanted to make
sure that people knew that there have been substantial negotiation proposals, 
negotiation proposals that could be pursued once more in order to be able to 
find a peaceful solution to what is taking place between the United States and 
Iran. And I did so, mindful of the fact that there seems to be a lot of people 
in the White House that have the military option as their first option, not as 
their last option.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Trita
Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council and is author of the
forthcoming book, Treacherous Triangle: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and 
the United States.

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