Since the birth of the Islamic
Republic 30 years ago,
Iran has been at daggers drawn
with the West.
In the last decade, as the West has
put more troops on Iran’s borders,
the conflict has grown
ever more dangerous.
In a luxury London hotel,
a senior Iranian made a surprising
offer to one of the West’s
principle negotiators with Iran.
The Iranians wanted to be able
to strike a deal
whereby they stopped killing our
forces in Iraq in return for them
being allowed to carry
on with their nuclear programme.
Iran had never
before admitted responsibility
for coalition deaths in Iraq.
And when the senior Iranian said it,
no other witnesses were present.
This is the story of how
the West struggles to handle
its most intractable adversary.
The Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan.
What happened here in 2001
created a rare opportunity for Iran
and the West to come together.
Iran’s enemies, the Taliban,
controlled almost all of Afghanistan
except this valley,
which was held by Iran’s ally,
the Northern Alliance.
Its commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud,
was the only Afghan
the Taliban could not conquer.
But now they had him trapped.
Two North Africans
with Belgian passports
and a letter of introduction
from an Islamic group in London
persuaded Massoud to give them
They began with some unexpected
“Why are you against
Osama bin Laden?
“Why do you call him a killer?”
Each exploded a bomb,
one in the camera,
and the other in a suicide belt.
Massoud was dead.
Iranian intelligence judged
that only Al-Qaeda
could have pulled off
this complex hit.
One obvious motive was
to help their hosts, the Taliban.
But it smelt of
an international plot.
ally also smelled a rat.
The next day was
11 of September, 2001.
For the 20 years
since the Islamic Revolution,
Iranians had chanted
“death to America.”
ordered that stopped.
Instead, Iran mourned
the victims of 9/11.
President Mohammad Khatami
led the most moderate government
since Iran became an Islamic state.
He had sought reconciliation
but his political
opponents stopped him.
With America poised to attack
he had a chance to win
the argument in the cabinet.
They decided to talk
to the Americans.
The only place where US and Iranian
officials met was the UN.
A member of Iran’s delegation
brought a message
for the US government.
He said that Iran was prepared
to work unconditionally
with the United States
in the war on terror.
That if they
could work with us on this issue,
it had the potential to fundamentally
transform US Iranian relations.
In 1979, Iran had taken
American diplomats hostage.
The USA and Iran had had no
diplomatic relations since.
Now, Iranian and US diplomats
started meeting secretly, in a body
called the Six Plus Two Group.
These meetings took place in New York
and also in Geneva.
The Iranians were willing
to do whatever was necessary
to help to ensure that the US
military campaign could succeed.
For almost a month, the US bombed
the Taliban and Al-Qaeda heartlands
south and east of Kabul.
This war could not be
won from the air alone.
But Iran’s allies, the Northern
Alliance, were still bottled
up in the Panjshir Valley.
What they needed was
the US to bomb the Taliban
where they were
blocking the road to Kabul.
Iran decided it was time to share
crucial intelligence with America.
They used the Six Plus Two Group.
He pounded the table and said,
“I’ve had enough of this.
“This is just nice talk, but we’re
not going to get anywhere
“if this bombing campaign
And then, he took out a map and
he unfurled the map on the table
and started to point to targets
that the US needed to focus on,
particularly in the north.
We took the map to CENTCOM,
to the US Central Command.
And certainly that did become
the US military strategy.
We took a fourth world force,
the Northern Alliance,
riding horses, walking,
living off the land,
and we married them up with
a first world air force.
And, er, it worked.
The Northern Alliance took Kabul.
Iran’s strategy had succeeded.
Next, Iran helped America create
a new government for Afghanistan.
But America still had Iran on its
list of state sponsors of terror.
The State Department proposed
to open the way to dialogue.
We couldn’t get support
from the NSC,
from the Pentagon, from
the Vice-President’s office.
And in every case we ran up against
this belief in regime change.
Iran aggressively pursues
these weapons and exports terror,
while an unelected few repress the
Iranian people’s hope for freedom.
States like these,
and their terrorist allies,
constitute an axis of evil.
Nine months later,
the US and Britain
proposed a UN resolution that
could authorise war against Iraq.
The British Foreign Secretary,
toured the Middle East
to seek support.
Iran was a big cheese in the region.
And it was important for me to see
the Iranians, to get them on board
for what we were seeking to do
which was to get rid of him.
We cannot ignore
the threat posed by Saddam Hussein
to this region, to countries
like Iran and Kuwait,
to the Iraqi people themselves,
and to the security of the region
and the world.
Saddam had invaded
Iran 20 years earlier.
Iran had lost hundreds
of thousands of young men.
President Khatami now made an
unexpected offer. Iran would provide
America with intelligence and advice
to help get rid of Saddam Hussein.
He said there had been
an international arrangement
in respect of Afghanistan,
in which they had participated,
and no-one much noticed this
but it had worked pretty well.
I said, you know, this…
Because it wasn’t directly in my
gift, so I was cautious in response.
I could see the point he was making.
Straw knew that Iran and Iraq,
both Shia majority states,
are closely intertwined.
No state was better placed
to provide the UK and the US
with intelligence in Iraq.
But would President Bush accept help
from one of his axes of evil?
That was the 64,000 dollar question.
The crucial thing was
to try it on Colin Powell.
I called him.
But the State
Department had a problem -
the White House.
Secretary Powell and I wanted
to push the possibility as far
as the traffic would bear,
but we realised there were
some real practical limitations
the President was going
to put on this.
Colin was sympathetic,
but he came back to me
and said that he didn’t think
it was a runner.
So, as the American-led coalition
crushed Saddam Hussein,
Iran watched from the sidelines.
Iran now faced American forces
of quarter of a million men -
on its Afghan border to the east,
and in Iraq, to the west.
And a President who believed
in pre-emptive war.
Major combat operations
in Iraq have ended.
In the battle of Iraq,
the United States and our allies
The next day, an unprecedented
proposal to mend Iran’s shattered
relationship with the West landed
on a desk in the State Department.
The Swiss Ambassador, who
represented US interests in Iran,
had sent a fax.
It starts out about, with his
meeting with Sadeq Kharrazi.
And I thought, “Hm, this is
a little bit different.”
Sadeq Kharrazi, here on the
right with President Khatami,
was a key player in Iran.
He was the Foreign Minister’s
an in-law of the Supreme Leader,
and he’d been
meeting the Swiss Ambassador.
The readout says that he’s had these
talks with Sadeq Kharrazi
and Sadeq Kharrazi has developed
a road map
for the normalisation
of US Iranian relations.
The road map suggested direct
talks between Iran and America.
Nothing was on the table.
Iran’s wish list -
America would refrain from
supporting regime change
and abolish all sanctions on Iran.
And America’s wish list -
Iran would make Hezbollah and Hamas
into a peaceful political party
and would accept the two-state
Palestinian Israeli peace process.
That proposal had a number
which were of importance to Iran.
That is, it had the element of
which has been lacking in US
approach to Iran.
The covering letter said that
Kharrazi had two long discussions
with the Supreme Leader
and that President Khatami and
his uncle the Foreign Minister
were also present.
All previous contact
between the US and Iran
had been limited to single issues.
Now it seemed the Supreme Leader
with 85% to 90%
of this ambitious paper.
I read it. I think it’s incredibly
significant and ground-breaking.
And I write the memo
for Secretary Powell,
that would be from my
boss at the time, Richard Haass.
I thought the paper was interesting,
but I was sceptical.
The biggest problem in dealing with
Iran at that point was uncertainty
about whether the government really
spoke for the government,
or whether the government
really spoke for the power centres
of the country.
If the Iranians authorised it to be
transmitted to the US
as the basis of talks,
we should do it.
I don’t care whether they contracted
out to a great speech writer.
They authorised this transmission
and we should call them on it.
Washington said no.
The decision wasn’t made
by hard-line associates
of the President.
It was made at the top
of the State Department.
Even in response to a proposal
that was basically a genuine attempt
to resolve all issues of concern
to either side,
the United States simply decided
to neglect it and put it aside.
America’s snub left diplomacy
with Iran in European hands.
Secretary flew to Tehran.
President Khatami still needed
to convince the West
that the rest of Iran’s leadership
supported his moderate policies.
I said to him that it didn’t help
that when they paraded
their Shahab missiles
on their national military
day in Tehran,
that the legend written on
these missiles in English
was “Death to the Americans”.
Khatami came straight back at me,
smiled, and said,
“Yeah, but that’s some relief to me,
“cos they used to write,
“Death to Khatami.”
It was a very poignant moment,
er…bringing out in a sense
about the way in which he was
continually being undermined
by the conservative forces in Iran.
Straw then said the West was worried
about Iran’s investment
in nuclear technology.
But Iran’s military doesn’t
answer to the President alone.
The Supreme Leader
has the final say.
Iran already had an ambitious
programme in ballistic missiles
that could carry nuclear warheads.
And Iran was building its first
civil nuclear power station.
Earlier in the year,
inspectors from the International
Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA,
had confirmed the existence
of this secret facility,
proof that Iran was also trying
to master the secrets
of enriching uranium,
technology that can be used
to make fuel, or a bomb.
Enrichment was the most difficult
part of developing a nuclear weapon.
It was maybe two thirds,
three quarters of the challenge.
It wasn’t actually producing
the bomb, it was producing
the highly-enriched uranium
that had to go into the bomb.
And so if the Iranians could master
enrichment, they would be
three quarters of the way to
producing a nuclear weapon.
None of the leaders at that
summer’s G8 summit wanted Iran
to become a nuclear power.
But most were worried that the US
might use force to stop them.
The international community,
er, must come together
to make it very clear to Iran
that we will not tolerate
the construction of a nuclear
Fundamentally, both the President and
felt we were gonna have
to overthrow the regime.
Iran under the control of the
was never going to be a rational
And that the ultimate way
to stop Iran
from pursuing nuclear weapons
or supporting international terrorism
was to change the regime in Tehran.
The Bush Administration didn’t
openly threaten to strike Iran,
but they did have
an agreed phrase for it.
All options are all on the table as
the President has said repeatedly.
Senator, I just have to repeat,
the President never takes any option
off the table and he shouldn’t.
The President of the US doesn’t take
any options off the table.
For our part, the United States is
keeping all options on the table.
And as the President has said…
All options are on the table.
Joschka called me and said, “Look,
we mustn’t allow the Western allies
“to be split again
in respect of Iran.”
He said, “Why don’t you and I get
a deal from the Iranians
“where in return for lifting
“we get copper-bottomed guarantees,
“that they’re not pursuing
a nuclear weapons programme?”
And I said I thought
this was a very good idea.
I talked to the Prime Minister
about it and he endorsed it.
And so that’s
how the E3 process began.
The E3, or EU3,
the Foreign Ministers
of the UK, France and Germany, had
set themselves a difficult task.
We went to Tehran to get them
to agree to stop enrichment and
everything to do with enrichment.
They should stop it for ever.
So we wanted to get them into that
by getting them to agree
to a suspension, to a halt.
My working assumption was that they
would not have agreed to the meeting
unless they had something to give us.
Why would they?
Dr Hassan Rohani, who led
the Iranian delegation,
was the national security
adviser to the Supreme Leader.
When the meeting began, he played
his strongest card -
Iran’s right to enrich uranium
under the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, the NPT.
The Europeans replied that Iran had
violated its treaty obligations,
and should suspend its
Iran had smuggled centrifuges
to enrich uranium,
and then hid them
from international inspectors.
We are talking about…
a lack of trust.
And you are responsible for that.
Rohani said that they would agree
to not putting radioactive material
into the centrifuges.
Which would mean that Iran
was not enriching
and so that would
mean suspension of enrichment.
The problem with Iran’s definition
was that it
would allow them to build
more centrifuges – and master
the skills needed to run them.
We didn’t want to allow a situation
where all this equipment was
kind of primed and ready to go,
but all they had agreed to do
was not to press the button.
So that was the argument,
and it was a big argument.
For two hours,
the Iranians stood firm.
Then Rohani gambled
that the Europeans would not want
to go home empty-handed,
and would settle for Iran’s narrow
definition of suspension.
Rohani looked at his watch and said,
“It’s time for us to go and report
to the President.”
And then something extraordinary
happened – quite unscripted.
Joschka banged the table and said,
“There’s no point us going to see
“the President or talking to the
press. We’ve not agreed anything.”
We would be fools.
I mean, to sit there in
a press conference, be polite.
And nobody had an interest, I mean,
to create bad feelings
with our hosts.
And Rohani said, “This is
as much as we can agree to.”
Joschka said, “In that case we might
as well go catch our planes.”
You could see these guys thinking,
“God, that wasn’t in our script.”
There was almost a total
failure and break-out.
We decided, both sides,
I think, decided,
to call a break and discuss it.
The Iranian negotiator needed
from the Supreme Leader
and the President.
And Rohani got out his mobile.
He was speaking quietly
but it was clearly an intense
conversation he was having.
It was quite extraordinary.
We were sort of hanging around!
with the President Khatami
lasted over an hour.
They knew that if the Europeans went
home now, President Bush might act.
When Iran agreed that the
International Atomic Energy Agency
could set the terms of suspension,
it seemed that they had
caved in to Europe’s demand.
Now the Europeans were
happy to meet the President.
We were not bad in poker game
too, in the diplomatic poker game.
I mean, the European part.
But the Iranians thought they
had the ace up their sleeve.
They had already asked the IAEA
director, Mohammed El Baradei,
how he would define suspension.
Dr El Baradei had visited
the day before
and they discussed
the meaning of suspension.
Dr Rohani believed that El
Baradei had considered suspension
to be basically not feeding
uranium into the centrifuges.
The IAEA defined suspension
as Europe wanted.
And four months later,
they reported that Iran had been
hiding a new, advanced centrifuge.
Iran had expected agreement with
Europe would bring economic rewards.
Later that year, Iran went to
the polls to elect a new parliament.
The clerics and the Supreme Leader
most of the candidates who
favoured negotiations with the West.
The new parliament was
dominated by hard-liners.
This tough line was reinforced
by the Supreme Leader’s
new appointment to the National
Security Council, Ali Larijani.
Iran’s negotiators needed to show
they could win concrete rewards.
So, one of them approached the IAEA
to help get trade concessions from
Europe to impress the voters.
The next round of elections
in Iran was imminent.
A lot of candidates from
the election will benefit
from us losing this negotiation.
Yes, I know that, I know that.
They will not see favourably… No.
..a success in these talks.
And…and…they are rather
Both the Europeans as well
as the negotiators
have lost credibility in Iran.
It’s not a problem of confidence
on their side,
it’s a problem of confidence
on our side as well.
Confidence in our own…
..er, sort of credibility at home.
At the 2004 UN General Assembly,
Jack Straw set up a meeting
with Iran’s Foreign Minister,
to see if there was any way forward.
But Straw was late for the meeting -
there was a crisis.
A British civilian, Ken Bigley,
had been taken hostage in Iraq.
Jack is having to phone
the family of the hostage
we have in Iraq.
And it’s obviously…
extremely difficult for us,
it’s a huge issue.
We have the same problem.
Two years earlier, the West had
spurned Iran’s offer of help
to deal with Iraq.
Now Kharrazi couldn’t resist
how much that refusal was costing.
I mean, it’s obviously…
A very dangerous environment.
It was more safe
when Saddam Hussein was in power.
For whom was it more safe?
Was it more safe for the hundreds of
thousands of people he killed?
No, even for British citizens.
Iraqis weren’t safe under
Saddam Hussein, Iranians weren’t
safe under Saddam Hussein.
How many Iranians were killed
by Saddam Hussein?
So, how are you? I’m OK.
How are you? Fine.
A few minutes later Straw showed up
and broke the tension.
But the two sides were no closer
to breaking the impasse
over Iran’s nuclear enrichment.
The Iranians wanted trade embargos
Europe couldn’t deliver.
Long-standing American sanctions
punished anyone who traded
Jack Straw decided to ask Colin
Powell to let Europe offer
some incentives, some carrots,
He raised it at the annual
dinner of G8 Foreign Ministers.
I had a very close
relationship with Colin Powell.
I talked to him and said,
“We’ve got to give something
to them and let us see.
“It’s in our interest to try
and give something to the Khatami
Colin Powell agreed, and said
he thought it would be very useful
for the political directors to meet,
and he invited us all to Washington
a couple of weeks later to do that.
The Europeans now worked out
of exactly what could be offered
Three weeks later they brought
their proposal to Washington.
The administration’s most outspoken
had been lobbying
against the new policy.
I was stunned that Powell had
deviated from our policy
by saying, “Let’s offer
the Iranians even more carrots
“than the EU3 had been offering.”
But the Europeans
were met by Powell’s loyal deputy,
The reason I even met with them
was because they had to realise
that there were some sensible
people on the seventh floor.
You could see the evident
dissatisfaction on John Sawer’s
face, because I was still there.
And I leant over and said, “Let me
know if I can help in terms of,
“you know, achieving
a common outcome to this.”
And I just got
a sort of frosty glare.
In the face of Bolton’s hostility,
Sawers presented the new plan
on behalf of the Europeans.
Our proposal included
spare parts for their aircraft,
possible sale of new aircraft,
the capacity for international
to co-operate with the Iranians
on civil nuclear power.
Bolton said, “Right, has everybody
else spoken? OK?”
And he got out a sheet of paper
and said, “This is the US position.”
We expected Iran to suspend all of
its uranium enrichment activities
and come into full compliance
with its safeguards obligations.
And not until that happened
would we consider any, er, anything.
Why had we travelled
across the Atlantic
and wasted two days of our time
to go to Washington just
to go to a meeting
which was undermined by the hosts
and the people who were
Well, a lot of parts of US
doesn’t make sense from the outside,
but John Bolton was placed
in the Department
by the Vice-President
of the United States,
who had great faith in his ability.
Unfortunately, when he’s not
on your side,
and it’s very difficult to fire him,
you couldn’t have a worse enemy.
Soon afterwards, Secretary of State
and his deputy Richard Armitage
announced their resignations.
The next talks between the EU3
and Iran were scheduled in Paris.
Neither side had much to offer,
but neither was willing to accept
So the Iranians agreed to a complete
suspension for three months
while the Europeans would try
to find ways to increase trade.
We put it in the Paris agreement
that suspension is essential
as long as negotiations proceed.
And we used the word “proceed”
to show that it’s not simply
negotiations should go on,
but in fact they should go forward.
The deal was signed.
I was on a busy commuter
train to Oxfordshire on the Friday,
looking forward to a bit of a rest,
cos it had been a very busy period.
And I get this call on
the train and it’s Kharazzi,
he wants to talk to me.
The Iranian Foreign Minister
wanted to discuss the agreement
just reached in Paris.
There’s no way I could take the call,
as it were,
with the audience of some scores
So I say, “Hang on.”
And I go to the lavatory
and then find out what he wants,
and what he wanted was essentially
to amend this deal.
The Iranians had just signed
to turn off and seal every single
centrifuge they owned.
Now, their Foreign Minister asked
for an exemption, for research.
He said, “Well, you know, we did
say none but actually we mean 20.”
I said I’d have to call him
back because by this stage,
trying to negotiate on something
as important as this
from a train lavatory and with
somebody was at the door wanting
to make use of the loo.
Jack phoned me to tell me
what Kharrazi had said to him,
and I said I thought that
sounded extremely dangerous.
I got together a couple of elderly
gents who’d been involved
back in the time when we were
back in the 1950s and ’60s.
They said, “Oh, I remember
how we did this.
“We had 16 centrifuges that
we ran continuously for two years,
“and after two years
of running 16 centrifuges
“we’d mastered enrichment.”
So if the Iranians want
to keep 20 centrifuges, they
probably want to do the same thing.
All right, thank you. Bye.
He said Minister Straw,
Secretary Straw, may be interested.
In the end, Straw phoned
Foreign Minister Kharrazi.
I said, “Look, a deal’s a deal,
“You guys are really difficult,
come impossible, to negotiate with.
“When you sign a deal, it is a deal.”
Iran dropped the request
to keep 20 centrifuges,
the full suspension
the West had been asking for.
IAEA cameras monitored it.
But the relationship between Iran
and the West was about to take
a new turn.
President Khatami’s term
in office was up.
Iran’s voters elected a new
president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -
the pop star of Iranian politics.
And America had a new
Secretary of State.
As National Security Advisor,
Condoleezza Rice had
not concentrated on Iran.
Now she put it
at the top of her agenda.
I met Secretary Rice at the airport
and we had a long talk
on the ride into Brussels.
She said that Iran was beginning
to increase its assistance
both to Shia militants in Iraq,
er, to the Hezbollah,
to the Palestinians, Islamic Jihad,
so Iran had become the largest funder
and supplier of arms
to most of the Middle East groups
that were shooting at us
or shooting at the Israelis
or the moderate Palestinians.
And secondly, Iran was
continuing its nuclear research.
Rice made Burns her deputy and
asked him to take on the Iran brief.
She wanted to know if the State
Department was up to the job.
I went back to Condi
and reported that,
“Condi, we have half a person
in the entire Department of State
“devoted to one of the most
significant countries in the world.”
And she was appalled.
Within days, Rice would
receive a report from Iraq
that would strengthen her
resolve to deal with Iran.
She had sent a trusted colleague
to Iraq to find out what was going
Shia militias backed by Iran were
emerging as the biggest threat
to Western success in Iraq.
Rice’s advisor was briefed
by US and UK intelligence
that in the Shia south, more and
more coalition soldiers
were being killed by
a new type of roadside mine.
It could penetrate
even armoured vehicles.
It’s rare to get a convergence of
from so many different kinds
and from several
that all end up pointing
in the same direction.
American and British Intelligence
concluded that these mines
were factory-made in Iran.
The people who were being
killed by these devices
were our soldiers in the field,
and they were the people
who literally had gone to the sites
of these explosions
and cleaned up the bodies
and body parts of their comrades.
From their point of view,
one more soldier getting killed
Secretary Rice’s counsellor reported
back. “Iraq remains a failed state,
“and an open field for
But by now, President Bush wasn’t
ready to strike at the
sponsors of terrorism.
Instead he had the State Department
send a secret warning to Iran.
The continuation of this Iranian
behaviour would be regarded by us
as enemy action.
America’s warning was
delivered in the autumn of 2005.
Iran’s response came via Europe.
There were various Iranians who
would, you know, come to London
and suggest we had tea
in some hotel or other.
They’d do the same in Paris,
they’d do the same in Berlin
and then we’d
compare notes among the three of us.
The Iranians’ tea-time initiative
was breathtakingly bold.
The Iranians wanted to be able
to strike a deal
whereby they stopped killing
our forces in Iraq in return
for them being allowed to carry
on with their nuclear programme.
“We stop killing you in Iraq,
stop undermining the political
“you allow us
to carry on with our nuclear
programme without hindrance.”
You said, “We can make life easier
for you in Iraq
“if you give Iran’s nuclear programme
What sort of deal were you offering?
As you remember, many members
of that meeting went public
and denied that that statement
had ever been made.
You are not denying it, are you?
No, no, no, what I’m saying is
that Iran can and has played
an active role and supportive role
both in Afghanistan and Iraq.
You are saying here it could
play a more active role…
It’s Realpolitik. It’s, er…
And from the Iranians’ point of view,
freedom on the nuclear dossier.
The West ignored the offer of a
deal, but Iran had made it clear.
If it were attacked, its allies in
Iraq would kill more Americans,
British and Iraqis there.
President Ahmadinejad announced
that Iran would re-start its nuclear
A few weeks later,
Jack Straw played host
to Condoleezza Rice
in his constituency.
The confrontation with Iran was
pulling the US and the UK apart.
For the first time since
the invasion of Iraq,
the UK was refusing to
endorse American threats.
I was saying, “Hang on,
you just need to understand
“there aren’t any circumstances
in which this British government,
“or my view any British government,
“could be involved in military action
Secretary of State, what
next steps could be taken to persuade
the Iranians to pull back from
the uranium enrichment programme?
Jack Straw keeps telling us that that
military action will never be used.
First of all, the American President
never takes any option
off the table.
You don’t want the American
to take any option off the table.
My point from a British
perspective was that since
I thought that it…would be
and counterproductive to take
military action, and given
the background of Iraq,
and I think we would have been
involved in a political firestorm
if I had given a hint
that military action
was a possibility.
I may say Tony Blair took
a different view about that.
Within the month, Blair would remove
Jack Straw from the Foreign Office.
But he still had one last chance
to exploit the special relationship.
At the end of the trip,
Condi and I went to her plane.
Straw stayed on board.
He flew with Rice on
an unscheduled trip to Iraq.
On that trip we spent
quite a long time in her cabin
talking about Iran.
My message to Condi was this.
We Europeans have gone as far as
we can by ourselves, and frankly…
..so far as the Iranians are
we Europeans are
a sprat to catch a mackerel.
And you’re the big fish,
the United States.
After changing planes in Kuwait,
they arrived in the war zone.
In the previous month, 1,000 Iraqis
and 31 Americans had died there.
Sunnas and Shias were killing
across the length and breadth
of the country.
The government of Iraq couldn’t
come together around
the new Prime Minister
because Iran was deeply involved.
We wanted to counter
the Iranian pressure.
All this was going on at the same
time that journalists
in the United States were writing
we were getting ready for war
It was clear to me that she was
anxious to find a way through this,
and that she would if she could
seek to get other principals
and the President on board
for direct involvement
in talks with the Iranians.
Rice was about to attempt her most
audacious move as Secretary of
It was the Easter holidays.
George and Laura Bush hosted an
Easter egg hunt at the White House.
But Condi Rice stayed home.
She asked her staff
to give her a series of calendars
for April and May and June and July,
and she began to sketch out
a diplomatic strategy
that would get us into negotiations
with the Iranians.
She took that, and had breakfast
the next morning with President Bush
and received the President’s
permission to go ahead.
The Secretary of State would make
an announcement later that day.
Iran’s negotiator was given
We are agreed with our European
on the essential elements
of package containing
both benefits if Iran makes
the right choice
and costs if it does not.
As soon as Iran fully and verifiably
suspends its enrichment
and re-processing activities
the United States will come to
the table with our EU colleagues
and meet with Iran’s representatives.
For the first time in almost
the US was offering to speak
directly with Iran.
Regime change was out.
That policy had failed.
We had tried reg…
We had advocated regime change.
We had a very threatening posture
towards Iran for a number of years.
It didn’t produce any movement
The Americans made it possible
to offer the Iranians more than
any of them had thought conceivable.
From civil nuclear power stations
to the biggest prize of all -
welcoming the Islamic Republic
into the family of nations.
and I were quite buoyant.
We felt that the Iranians
were gonna accept this offer.
The offer was presented
to Iran’s negotiator
by the EU’s foreign policy chief.
I tried to be as constructive
As friendly as possible to him.
As respectful as possible
to his country.
They went into a side room
with a translator.
I went into some of the details
that would prefer not to be said in
the full meeting room.
Centrifuges for research
were what Jack Straw
had turned down two years earlier.
This was a big concession to Iran.
He said, “Whatever proposal you make
to me here,
“I will have to discuss it with other
“in the structure of power
And as you know, the structure of
power of Tehran
is not a simple matter.
was against the proposal.
Larijani was in favour.
But when he came to Brussels
six weeks later
all he could do was turn
on the charm.
It was full of that.
And in Farsi,
it’s much easier to do that.
In English, it’s more difficult.
A month later, they met again.
There now seemed to be enough
support in the National Security
for Larijani to take a half step
Larijani and Solana hatched a plan
to open talks in New York
during the UN General Assembly.
The New York meeting was
to be carefully choreographed.
Iran would temporarily
and the West would suspend
The key was that the two sides would
make these concessions
at the same time.
Larijani would come to New York,
to the Waldorf-Astoria.
He would meet the European
and the Russians and Chinese
He would accept the basis of
negotiations. And at that point,
Secretary Rice could then enter
the room, have dinner with them,
sit down across from then and
have the very first conversation.
Dr Larijani was very enthusiastic
about that meeting
with permanent members
of the Security Council.
And to do that in New York
at the time
of the General Assembly
was not a minor thing.
New York would give Larijani the
chance to win the argument in Iran.
He’d get rid of hated sanctions.
Receiving the public respect
of world leaders
would show that
Iran was no longer a pariah state.
The Americans were ready.
We had formed a negotiating team,
we’d done all sorts of research
on how best to work with them,
we’d thought through the various
elements of what we would do,
and the pace of the negotiations -
we were quite looking forward to it.
We’re working toward a
diplomatic solution to this crisis.
And as we do, we look to the
day when you can live in freedom.
And America and Iran can
be good friends
and close partners
in the cause of peace.
The Iranians were due
at the UN on Monday.
On the preceding Friday,
the State Department got a message.
Larijani would have minders.
The Iranians sent word to us that
they had to have a delegation
of nearly 300 people accompany
Larijani, none of them had visas.
And Condi said to me,
“Let’s take away any excuse
they have not to come.”
So I called our Embassy in Berne
in Switzerland and I said,
“Could you please stay open
throughout the entire weekend?
“Issue several hundred visas,”
which they did…
All the technical
questions we had resolved.
The visa were there, the
travel arrangement were done.
I have the honour to welcome
to the United Nations,
Mr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian who arrived in New York
and who was the centre of attention
at the United Nations was not
the nuclear negotiator.
The President will have a press
conference on Thursday.
It seemed President Ahmadinejad
had won the argument in Iran.
Once President Ahmadinejad
showed up in New York,
it was clear that two were too many.
The plane never took off.
Larijani never took off from Tehran,
he never made the trip,
those 300 people didn’t get
on the aeroplane,
they never showed up in New York.
And we were in New York, thinking,
“Well, maybe he’ll come tomorrow,
or the next day, or next week.”
Larijani was replaced by a much more
and Iran went ahead with
its nuclear programme.
The West imposed more sanctions.
30 years ago, Iran’s revolution
from Western interference.
But the Islamic Republic
ended up also rejecting
liberalism and secularism,
that govern Western society.
The many dead on both sides have
reinforced this bitter divide.