Thursday, 18 January 2007
Agence France Presse
LONDON – Iran offered to cut off aid and support for the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas, and promised full transparency on its nuclear program in a secret letter to the United States soon after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the British media reported.
According to the BBC, the letter, which it obtained, was unsigned, but the US State Department understood that it came with the approval of the highest Iranian authorities.
The Islamic republic also offered to use its influence to support stabilisation in Iraq, and in return asked for a halt in hostile American behaviour, an abolition of all sanctions, and the pursuit and repatriation of members of the Mujahedeen Khalq (People’s MOjahedIn of Iran, PMOI).
The PMOI is an exiled Iranian opposition group which fought alongside former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s army in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, and is currently based in Iraq.
Initially, the State Department was positive on the offer, according to Lawrence Wilkerson, former US secretary of state Colin Powell’s chief of staff, who spoke to the BBC.
“As soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the Vice-President’s (Dick Cheney) office, the old mantra of ‘we don’t talk to evil’ … reasserted itself,” Wilkerson told the broadcaster.
“To our embarrassment at State … the cable that I saw go back to the Swiss actually upbraided the Swiss for being so bold and audacious as to present such a proposal to us on behalf of the Iranians.”
According to Wilkerson, the State Department was also offered a deal by the Iranians after it led the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 which involved Iran giving up senior Al-Qaeda terror network figures in return for help pursuing the PMOI.
Powell and Wilkerson were unsure how high in the Iranian government the approach came from, however, and did not pursue the offer, the BBC said.