Peace Brokers or Megalomaniacs

Highly ineffectual, well, disingenuous, efforts by U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration of engaging Iran even before its disputed presidential election of June 2009 have been seen for some time with growing concern. Iranians were in fact well advised not to pay too much attention. The recent, long-awaited, talks between UN Security Council member states plus Germany (P+1) and an Iranian delegation in Geneva have failed mainly because of that. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s body language in Bahrain a few days before the Geneva talks, where she happened to ‘meet’ her (meanwhile sacked) counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki from Iran on the occasion of the 2010 International for Strategic Studies Manama Security Dialogue tells indeed volumes about the kaput relationship between the two countries. Of course, Clinton put the blame on Mottaki afterwards.

But has it been different ever since former President G. W. Bush spoke about an axis of evil in his State of the Union address in 2002?  In 2003 it is said that the former Swiss Ambassador in Tehran, Tim Guldimann, had tried to broker what has became infamous in the meantime, a sort of grand bargain between the U.S and Tehran. The so-called Guldimann Memorandum, or “roadmap”, has widely been denounced as fake later-on, in particular by right-wing pundits. And no wonder that apologists, such as Flynt Leverett and his wife Hillary Mann Leverett, like to lament about the missed chance for a general rapprochement between the two enemy parties.

Well, they might even be right in a way. There were, and probably are currently, Swiss diplomatic initiatives which the public has not been aware of unless having been leaked by WikiLeaks this week.  DER SPIEGEL had reported on Monday that the U.S. American Embassy in Bern had increasingly been bothered by Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Anne-Marie Calmy-Rey’s “activism” as regards a great number of sensitive international issues, the tiny and proud-of-being-neutral Alpine country, which appears as sort of a hole in the map of the European Union, has been considered unlikely to deal with: Libya, Iran, Guantanamo, Polanski, to list only a few.

One respective document, a cable of 8 October 2009, has been posted on WikiLeaks Cable Viewer page only on Tuesday.  More explosive cables may be found here. Accordingly, beginning in the end of 2006, there was another obtrusive diplomatic initiative by the Swiss. Swiss Foreign Ministry State Secretary Michael Ambühl briefed the U.S. Ambassador in Bern after a three-day trip to Tehran in March 2007.  The visit had obviously been encouraged by former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei and has clearly been met with suspicion in Bern’s Embassy. The initiative had apparently been rebuffed by Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani. Embassy comments in the cable:

“5.(C) Given ElBaradei’s putative role in the Ambuehl visit to Tehran, we gather that the Swiss initiative echoes ElBaradei’s views, and may have been previously conveyed to Tehran by ElBaradei. While Swiss side efforts give us cause for concern, the fact that Larijani appears to have rebuffed the Swiss could be helpful in convincing fence straddlers in the international community that the Iranians are intransigent.”

Ambühl’s suggested paper reads as follows:

“——————- Text of Swiss Paper ——————-

7.(SBU) Following is the text of the Swiss non-paper passed to Larijani:

Guiding Principles and Mechanism to Relaunch the Negotiations

Step 1: Informal Talks

The parties will hold informal talks in order to agree on the following guiding principles which will serve as a basis to relaunch negotiations:

1. In order to create the necessary confidence:

— Iran will suspend all its enrichment-related activities as required by the UNSC and the IAEA and to be verified by the latter;

— The P5 plus 1 will simultaneously suspend the implementation of the UNSC sanctions and will ensure that the Iranian nuclear issue will not be considered by the UNSC, but that the file will be returned to the IAEA.

The parties will agree on the date of the entry into force of this double suspension, which will last until the end of negotiations in step 2, but no longer than six months unless otherwise agreed.

2. Iran will adopt a policy of maximum transparency in its cooperation with the IAEA. To this end, Iran will present a timetable to the IAEA with a view to resolving all remaining outstanding issues.

3. The P5 plus 1 recognize and affirm Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear energy under Article IV of the NPT and in accordance with Articles II and III of the NPT. The modalities ensuring Iran’s access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as well as the timing and modalities of the exercise of certain aspects of this right, namely the sensitive part of the fuel cycle, will be agreed in the negotiations under step 2, in conjunction with the confidence-building measures that need to be undertaken in Iran.

Step 2: Negotiations

As soon as the commitments regarding the double suspension and the time-table are implemented, step 2 begins.

The parties will enter into negotiations in good faith with the aim of achieving a comprehensive settlement (“package”) including nuclear issues and non-nuclear areas, such as economic cooperation, international security, and political dialogue, with a view to streamlining and strengthening cooperation between the P5 plus 1 and Iran.

The three guiding principles and the mechanism for relaunching the negotiations will be incorporated in a joint declaration signed by the P5 plus 1 and Iran.

End text of Swiss paper.”

Neither Ambühl’s trip to Tehran nor his suggested non-paper had been welcomed in Washington in March 2007, when several aircraft carriers had already been deployed to the Persian Gulf and the world in fact expected another war in the Middle East. That was effectively cancelled only eight months later when the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran came to the conclusion that there was no imminent threat of Iran possessing a nuclear weapon. Still there is no.

Last modified December 16, 2010.

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