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An Alleged Letter To Bush In 2003 Reignites Controversy In Iran


Mohammad Khatami during his presidency in early 2000s. FILE PHOTO

An alleged controversial letter has resurfaced after seventeen years in Iran and rekindled a heated debate over Tehran- Washington relations.

The letter attributed to the Islamic Republic's ex-President Mohammad Khatami and his close aides has been described as a "roadmap" for Iran-US rapprochement.

Ali Baqeri (Bagheri) an ultraconservative ally of the country's Supreme Leader who is currently the Secretary of the Iranian judiciary's Human Rights Council, mentioned the letter in an interview aired by the state-run television on May 3 and 4.

He maintained that the letter was written less than two months after U.S. forces invaded Iraq to overthrow the country's dictator Saddam Hussain.

While Baqeri lambasted Germany for its recent decision to ban the Lebanese Hezbollah, he also criticized Ex-President Mohammad Khatami and his administration for offering a proposal to the White House on May 3, 2003, to address U.S. concerns in the Middle East.

Among the proposals, Baqeri told Ofoq TV, was Khatami's offer to force the Lebanese Hezbollah to end its anti-US posture and armed resistance against Israel, and transform into a political party.

Kamal Kharrazi, ex-foreign minister and head of foreign relations council of Iran.
Kamal Kharrazi, ex-foreign minister and head of foreign relations council of Iran.

The head of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Supreme Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Kamal Kharrazi, has denied Baqeri's remarks about the existence of such a letter or any offer to have the Lebanese Hezbollah lay down its arms.

In a statement published by the Islamic republic's official news agency, IRNA, on May 26, Kharazi said that the claim was "baseless" and that Ali Baqeri's statements should not be based on "foreign rumors and allegations."

Kharrazi, who served as President Khatami's Foreign Minister (1997-2005), insisted in his statement that, compared to other Iranian administrations, Khatami's assistance to the Lebanese Hezbollah has always been appreciated by its Secretary-General, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.

Kamal Kharazi has been directly appointed by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic as the Chairman of the Strategic Council on Foreign Policy. The council is believed to be playing an advisory role in diplomacy for Khamenei.

The ultraconservative allies of Khamenei time and again raised the issue of the alleged letter, also called the Iran-US rapprochement roadmap, during hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tenure(2005-2013). They insist that the letter was written and sent to the U.S. in 2003, to appease the Islamic Republic's "enemy number one" or the "Great Satan."

Iran's Ambassador to France Seyed Mohammad Sadegh Kharrazi (L) poses with President Jacques Chirac, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 12, 2002
Iran's Ambassador to France Seyed Mohammad Sadegh Kharrazi (L) poses with President Jacques Chirac, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 12, 2002

The letter, branded as "humiliating for the Islamic Republic" by the ultraconservatives in the clergy-dominated Iran, is said to have been prepared by Kamal Kharrazi's nephew, Sadeq (Sadegh) Kharrazi. He was Tehran's ambassador to Paris at the time.

Sadeq Kharrazi has already repeatedly denied the existence of such a letter or roadmap.

Meanwhile, several journalists in the U.S., including Nicholas Kristof, have also used the letter to blast President George W. Bush's foreign policy.

In a column for the New York Times on April 29, 2007 titled Iran’s Proposal for a ‘Grand Bargain’, Nicholas Kristof branded the Bush administration's rejection of the Iranian offer "diplomacy at its worst."

However, there are other journalists, including Michael Rubin, a former Iran Country Director at the Pentagon, who insisted that the so-called letter or roadmap is merely a "fraud."

The "Iranian Roadmap," which was posted online by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on April 28, was not an Iranian overture but the work of a disgruntled Swiss diplomat, Tim Guldimann, Rubin wrote in Weekly Standard and Washington Examiner, on October 22, 2007.

Rubin argued that the Swiss Ambassador in Tehran, Tim Guldimann, cooked-up the roadmap to create a legacy for his numbered days as a diplomat presiding over the U.S. interest Section at Switzerland Embassy in Iran.

However, the roadmap, if there was one, failed.

"Guldimann was nearing the end of his posting. With Iranian reform in retreat, he had little to show for his time--and blamed Bush and Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei equally", Rubin asserted.

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