News Release

Former NSC Official Contradicts Rice on Iran Peace Offer

Reuters reports today — in a piece headlined “Ex-aide says Rice misled Congress on Iran” — that “Controversy over a possible missed U.S. opportunity for rapprochement with Iran grew on Wednesday as former aide accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of misleading Congress on the issue.

“Flynt Leverett, who worked on the National Security Council when it was headed by Rice, said a proposal vetted by Tehran’s most senior leaders was sent to the United States in May 2003 and was akin to the 1972 U.S. opening to China.

“Speaking at a conference on Capitol Hill, Leverett said he was confident it was seen by Rice and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell but ‘the administration rejected the overture.'”

The following analysts were at the event on Capitol Hill:

TRITA PARSI
Parsi is head of the National Iranian American Council. An adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, Parsi saw the peace offer in 2003 and interviewed Iranian officials about it in 2004. He said today: “It shows the desperation of this administration that they would make such contradictory statements. We know from Leverett and from [former Powell Chief of Staff Lawrence] Wilkerson that the offer was received and discussed in the administration, that Powell tried and failed to sell it. The administration says it wants to avoid war and conflict, but at every point, the administration has done everything it could not to negotiate with Iran.”
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GARETH PORTER
Porter wrote a recent piece titled “Burnt Offering: How a 2003 secret overture from Tehran might have led to a deal on Iran’s nuclear capacity — if the Bush administration hadn’t rebuffed it.”

The Washington Post Wednesday published online a fax about the peace proposal. Porter said today: “The document just published by the Washington Post online effectively refutes the claims by Rice and other present and former administration officials that they didn’t know if the Iranian proposal for a framework for negotiating with the United States in 2003 was endorsed by Iran’s top leaders. It reveals the details of the Swiss ambassador’s discussions with a key figure with close ties to both the Iranian foreign minister and the supreme leader, who had gotten approval for the initiative from the highest levels of the Iranian government.” Document [PDF] More Information

NADER SADEGHI
Board member of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, Sadeghi is a professor of surgery at George Washington University. He said today: “It appears that the administration is lying about having rejected the 2003 peace offer from Iran. Administration officials are trying to link Iran to the Iraq war to bypass Congress if they want to attack Iran. It’s the U.S. and not Iran that doesn’t want to negotiate. If the administration can talk with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, why not with Iran?”
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Background:
The Washington Post reported Wednesday: “The Swiss ambassador to Iran informed U.S. officials in 2003 that an Iranian proposal for comprehensive talks with the United States had been reviewed and approved by Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; then-President Mohammad Khatami; and then-Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, according to a copy of the cover letter to the Iranian document.”

Both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (“Rice Denies Seeing Iranian Proposal in ’03: Remark Adds to Debate on Whether U.S. Missed Chance to Improve Ties With Tehran“) and deputy national security advisor for the Mideast, Elliot Abrams, have recently claimed that they didn’t see the Iranian peace offer.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167