• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Talking with Tehran Has Repeatedly Been Tried and Failed

    Despite last week’s damning revelations about Iran’s continued duplicity on the nuclear issue, the Obama Administration remains wedded to engaging Iran, which has broken numerous attempts at engagement in the past. Yesterday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, responding to criticism of the Obama administration’s plans to start talks with Iran tomorrow in Geneva, defensively argued that the Bush Administration had refused to talk to Iran and stated “It resulted in a whole lot of nothing.” This statement is factually inaccurate. It promotes the misconception that the Bush Administration made no effort to resolve the Iran nuclear issue through negotiations.

    In fact, the Bush Administration, as well as prior U.S. administrations, made repeated efforts to approach Iran on a wide range of issues, but have been consistently rebuffed by the Iranian regime. Gibbs should consult Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who acknowledged as much in his comments last October at the National Defense University when he noted that “Every administration since (the Iranian revolution) has reached out to the Iranians in one way or another and all have failed.”

    Past efforts to engage Iran not only have failed but some have ended in disaster, as Michael Ledeen outlined in a strong op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today. The Carter Administration dispatched National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to meet with Iranian Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan in Algeria on November 1, 1979, which provoked Iranian hardliners to seize the U.S. Embassy in Tehran three days later, precipitating the Iranian hostage crisis. The Reagan Administration dispatched National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane to Tehran on a secret diplomatic mission but he was stood up by the Iranians and his diplomatic mission was exposed by a rival Iranian faction. The Clinton Administration reached out to Tehran in its second term by lifting some sanctions and President Bill Clinton wrote a letter to Iran’s President Khatami, but reportedly never received an answer.

    Contrary to Gibb’s glib remark, there were more attempts to engage Iran during the administration of George W. Bush than during any other administration. The Middle East Forum documented 28 separate meetings that involved direct or indirect contacts between Bush Administration and Iranian officials. On Iran’s nuclear program in particular, the Bush Administration sought to handle the issue primarily through multilateral diplomacy, which have been underway with little progress since 2003. In view of the following list of meetings and events on the Iranian nuclear issue, it is difficult to see why the Obama Administration believes that this time the outcome will be different:

    October 2003 – The foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Great Britain travel to Tehran and persuade Iran to agree to stop enriching uranium and to sign the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The EU-3 also dangle the prospect of economic concessions if Tehran cooperates fully with the IAEA. Iran turns over a declaration to the IAEA admitting to 18 years of covert atomic experiments, including the unreported uranium enrichment at Natanz, although it continues to deny that this was for a weapons program

    November 24, 2004 - Secretary of State Colin Powell said “The United States has been supportive of the Europeans’ efforts.”

    July 19, 2005 - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami proclaims that Iran will not forsake the right to produce nuclear fuel and that suspension of enrichment will not be permanent

    December 25, 2005 - Tehran formally rejects an offer from Moscow to enrich uranium for its nuclear program in Russia. Iranian officials insist upon Iran’s right to enrich uranium on its own soil.

    January 10, 2006 - Iran resumes nuclear research, triggering Western condemnation

    March 29, 2006 - The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts a statement calling on Tehran to halt its nuclear work.

    March 30, 2006 - The five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany warn Iran that it must heed the U.N. statement insisting that it stop its nuclear work or face isolation. Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki dismisses the warning. IAEA Director-General ElBaradei urges Iran to be more forthcoming but also says he thinks sanctions at this time would be unwise.

    May 31, 2006 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announces that the U.S. is willing to join the EU-3 talks with Iran if Tehran agrees to verifiably suspend uranium enrichment activities.

    June 6, 2006 - EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana meets in Tehran with senior Iranian government officials and presents them with fresh proposals aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its uranium-enrichment program.

    June 30, 2006 - Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki says Iran will not respond to the international incentives package before August, despite U.S. and EU pressure for Tehran to answer by July 5.

    September 9–10, 2006 - Two days of “productive” EU–Iranian talks end inconclusively with a vow to meet again the following week.

    October 4, 2006 – European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Javier Solana says four months of intensive talks have brought no agreement on suspension of Iran’s sensitive nuclear activities and adds that the dialogue cannot continue indefinitely.

    February 25, 2007 – President Ahmadinejad says that Iran’s nuclear program is unstoppable and, in a show of its growing technical prowess Iran reportedly fires a rocket into space for the first time.

    April 10, 2007 - Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki says that Iran will not accept any suspension of its uranium enrichment activities and urges world powers to accept the “new reality” of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program

    July 19, 2008 - Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns accompanied Solana and representatives of the P5&1 to meet with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Geneva but no progress is made.

    August 2, 2008 – An informal deadline lapses for Iran to respond to an offer from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia for talks on its disputed nuclear program.

    March 20, 2009 - U.S. President Barack Obama calls for “engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.” Iran cautiously welcomes the overture, saying that it wanted to see “practical steps.”

    May 25, 2009 - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejects a Western proposal for Iran to freeze its nuclear work in return for a freeze on further U.N. sanctions and rules out further talks on the issue.

    September 25, 2009 - President Obama announces that western intelligence agencies have uncovered a covert Iranian uranium enrichment plant and warns that “Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow.”

    September 30, 2009 - Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, made clear that Iran has ruled out discussions about the newly revealed uranium enrichment facility or halting its uranium enrichment efforts. “We are not going to discuss anything related to our nuclear rights, but we can discuss about disarmament, we can discuss about non-proliferation and other general issues,” Salehi told a news conference. “The new site is part of our rights and there is no need to discuss it,” he said, adding Tehran would not abandon its nuclear activities “even for a second.”

    Sources for timeline:

    The Heritage Foundation Iran Working Group, “Iran’s Nuclear Threat: The Day After” The Heritage Foundation Special Report #53, June 4, 2009

    “Bush Administration Contacts with Iran Direct and Indirect” Middle East Forum, November 10, 2008

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Talking with Tehran Has Repeatedly Been Tried and Failed

    1. Pingback: robert reed daly (rrdenigma47) 's status on Thursday, 01-Oct-09 01:33:54 UTC - Identi.ca

    2. Bobbie Jay says:

      Iran's "nuclear rights" aren't "rights" unless agreed upon the safety of the world… The President of America made it very clear, Iran is in violation. Okay, Now What?

    3. Bill San Antonio TX says:

      A Really Great Timeline for those too young to either remember, or care, what happened in 1979.

      The seizing of our embassy in Tehran should have never stood, but it did. As a result, a wicked Theocracy has dominated "Persia" ever since.

      As for Bush, his fate under the Obama Regime, is to be continually blamed for ANYTHING that happens. We know better; we know the truth. It must take great patience on President Bush's part to sit with dignity and not verbally respond to the outrageous garbage spewing forth against him.

      The real mistake we made was not warning Iran, in the strongest possible terms, WHILE we took out Saddam, that the days of funding and supporting terrorists was over. Further, that we had better not see one ounce of support or weaponry coming from Iran into Iraq or to Hamas or Hezbollah. Those days are over at YOUR peril.

      This is the only language that bullies and dictators understand. Teddy Roosevelt understood this. Of course, one has to be willing and able to back this up. One has to have the support of the American people because the support of the UN will never appear. Even though, we are doing the whole world a favor at our expense.

      When Bush declared the Axis of Evil he was spot on; even as the bleeding left was indignant and outraged.

      What kind of support would Bush have received from our Congress and People in the early days of the Iraq War, if he took care of two problems simultaneously? The obvious answer is none. We had our opportunity and blew it.

      It is well known that Iran is and has been the major destabilizing force in the Middle East for decades. Ask Israel. Ask Lebanon through Syria through Iran.

      We allowed Iran to fund and attack coalition forces with impunity. The Shia had no problem since they don't like the Sunni, anyway (read the history). And as no action was taken when Iran began interfering and killing our troops and thousands of Iraqi Muslims, Iran became bolder and even bolder.

      Iran has always been the key. The primary fault lies with the UN.

    4. Ali, Tehran says:

      If Iranian regime wants to have the same rights as other countries it must accept the responsibilities of benefiting of these rights, whilst the Iranian regime would not accept it. The Iranian regime is quite irresponsible even to its people. I am living in Iran and see the regime's misbehaving even in relation to the part of its supporters who are criticism to it.

      Unfortunately the policies of the Democrat Party in the U.S.A. always have given more time to the Iranian regime to stay in power. Mr. Carter was on the wrong side of the history of Iran and now president Obama is on the same.

    5. annabellLEE says:

      The Iranians in general have an air of superiority about how they handle government matters, and matters of State. They seek to compete by saying we are better and ferret information from others who gather it gladly for a fee. Dealing with cash is the preferred way to do business or advertising in papers for new businesses to evict honest businessmen from normal methods of enterprise. The students that came to stay in foreign lands and did not return home to obtain jobs they were educated for really received second-rate education especially in American campuses. How can we accept these student's credentials as fit for Iranian home jobs, when the University of Tehran has according to Iranians the best system of education in the East. My Goodness, are they saying that they look to education and science, which is totally Western? What would the mullah conference say to actually setting forth students as the next generation of leaders? Would they be privy to accepting less hard-line advocacy of the right wing Islamic Jihadist? Education is a wonderful thing, once you have it, you cannot be silenced and it might be terrible for the henchmen of the Islamic regimes to be confronted by a student revolt, similar to what the Shahanshah was confronted with? Is the President of Iran intelligent, one can only hope that he has in his background evidence that he has not condoned Western education, science, and would be a puppet of just WHO? If he is not a HOLY LEADER than he should not be in office. Any good Muslim would believe this with all their heart. Is he trying to blow up what is left of good Muslims with money for life sacrifices. And who does he sacrifice for his military might. Maybe he is trying to just blow up the world to have everyone say, he is really intelligent, the one who sold out to the WEST. Does anybody really understand a person who cannot speak logically? If he is a simpleton, then one can only image who is his partner in crime?

    6. Pingback: Iran: Wash, Rinse, Repeat | Conservative Principles Now

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.