Who Is Richard Armitage?

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July 8, 1996
The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli think tank, publishes a paper titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Chicago Sun-Times, 3/6/2003] The paper, whose lead author is Richard Perle, advises the new, right-wing Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to break with the policies of the previous government by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism….” Much along the lines of an earlier paper by Israeli Oded Yinon (see February 1982), the document urges the Israelis to aggressively seek the downfall of their Arab neighbors—especially Syria and Iraq—by exploiting the inherent tensions within and among the Arab States. Specifically, it recommends that Israel work with Turkey and Jordan to remove Saddam Hussein from power as a means of “foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” [Studies, 7/8/1996; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 3/19/2003] Other suggestions for Israel include abandoning the Oslo Accords, developing a foreign policy based on a traditional balance of power strategy, reserving its right to invade the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of a strategy of “self-defense,” abandoning any notion of “land for peace,” reestablishing a policy of preemptive strikes, forging closer ties to the US while taking steps towards self-reliance, and seeking an alternative to Yasser Arafat as leader of the PLO. [Studies, 7/8/1996]

January 26, 1998: Neo-Conservative Think Tank Urges US Should Attack Iraq
The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative think tank, publishes a letter to President Clinton urging war against Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein because he is a “hazard” to “a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil.” In a foretaste of what eventually happens, the letter calls for the US to go to war alone, attacks the United Nations, and says the US should not be “crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.” The letter is signed by many who will later lead the 2003 Iraq war. 10 of the 18 signatories later join the Bush Administration, including (future) Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Undersecretaries of State John Bolton and Paula Dobriansky, presidential adviser for the Middle East Elliott Abrams, and Bush’s special Iraq envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. [Project for the New American Century, 1/26/1998; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 3/16/2003] Clinton does heavily bomb Iraq in late 1998, but the bombing doesn’t last long and its long term effect is the break off of United Nations weapons inspections. [New York Times, 3/23/2003]

February 19, 1998
The Committee for Peace and Security publishes an open letter to President Bill Clinton outlining a 9-point “comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime.” The letter is signed by a litany of former US government officials known for their neoconservative viewpoints. Several of the signatories are also involved with the Project for the New American Century and had endorsed a similar letter published by that organization the previous month. [Abrams et al., 2/19/1998; CNN, 2/20/1998]

September 11, 1998: PNAC Calls on Clinton To Take ‘Decisive Action’ Against Milosevic
The Project for a New American Century publishes an open letter to President Clinton urging him put an end to diplomatic efforts attempting to resolve the situation in the Balkans. Instead, they argue, he should take “decisive action” against the Serbs. The US must “distance itself from Milosevic and actively support in every way possible his replacement by a democratic government committed to ending ethnic violence,” the group writes. [Century, 9/11/1998]

Spring 2001: CIA Official’s Suggestion to ‘Rain Hell’ on Taliban Is Not Well Received by Other US Ofificals
According to a later account by CIA Director George Tenet, Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin expresses frustration at the lack of action about bin Laden during a meeting of deputy cabinet officials. McLaughlin reportedly says, “I think we should deliver an ultimatum to the Taliban. They either hand bin Laden over or we rain hell on them.” According to Tenet, “An odd silence followed. No one seemed to like the idea. Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, called John after the meeting and offered a friendly word of advice: ‘You are going to get your suspenders snapped if you keep making policy recommendations. That is not your role.’” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 145]

April 30, 2001: Wolfowitz in Deputy Secretary Meeting: Who Cares About [Bin Laden]?
The Bush administration finally has its first Deputy Secretary-level meeting on terrorism. [Time, 8/4/2002] According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, he advocates that the Northern Alliance needs to be supported in the war against the Taliban, and the Predator drone flights need to resume over Afghanistan so bin Laden can be targeted. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 231] Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says the focus on al-Qaeda is wrong. He states, “I just don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden,” and “Who cares about a little terrorist in Afghanistan?” Wolfowitz insists the focus should be Iraqi-sponsored terrorism instead. He claims the 1993 attack on the WTC must have been done with help from Iraq, and rejects the CIA’s assertion that there has been no Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the US since 1993. (A spokesperson for Wolfowitz later calls Clarke’s account a “fabrication.”) [Clarke, 2004, pp. 30, 231; Newsweek, 3/22/2004] Wolfowitz repeats these sentiments immediately after 9/11 and tries to argue that the US should attack Iraq. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage agrees with Clarke that al-Qaeda is an important threat. Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley, chairing the meeting, brokers a compromise between Wolfowitz and the others. The group agrees to hold additional meetings focusing on al-Qaeda first (in June and July), but then later look at other terrorism, including any Iraqi terrorism. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 30, 231-32] Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin also attend the hour-long meeting. [Time, 8/4/2002]

May 2001: Tenet Visits Pakistan; Armitage Calls on India
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a former covert operative and Navy Seal, travels to India on a publicized tour while CIA Director Tenet makes a quiet visit to Pakistan to meet with President Pervez Musharraf. Armitage has long and deep Pakistani intelligence connections (as well as a role in the Iran-Contra affair). It would be reasonable to assume that while in Islamabad, Tenet, in what was described as “an unusually long meeting,” also meets with his Pakistani counterpart, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed. [SAPRA (New Delhi), 5/22/2001]

Summer 2001: Tenet Believes Something Is Happening
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage later will claim that at this time, CIA Director “Tenet [is] around town literally pounding on desks saying, something is happening, this is an unprecedented level of threat information. He didn’t know where it was going to happen, but he knew that it was coming.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file]

(9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Clarke Directs Crisis Response through Video Conference with Top Officials
Around this time, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke reaches the Secure Video Conferencing Center next to the Situation Room in the West Wing of the White House. From there, he directs the response to the 9/11 attacks and stays in contact with other top officials through video links. On video are Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, CIA Director Tenet, FBI Director Mueller, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson (filling in for the traveling Attorney General Ashcroft), Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (filling in for the traveling Secretary of State Powell), and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers (filling in for the traveling Chairman Henry Shelton). National Security Adviser Rice is with Clarke, but she lets Clarke run the crisis response, deferring to his longer experience on terrorism matters. Clarke is also told by an aide, “We’re on the line with NORAD, on an air threat conference call.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 2-4; Australian, 3/27/2004] The 9/11 Commission says of this conference in a staff report: “The White House Situation Room initiated a video teleconference, chaired by Richard Clarke. While important, it had no immediate effect on the emergency defense efforts.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The 9/11 Commission’s Final Report covers the conference in greater depth and suggests begins about 15 minutes later than Clarke claims, at 9:25 a.m.(see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet, as the Washington Post puts it, “everyone seems to agree” Clarke is the chief crisis manager on 9/11. [Washington Post, 3/28/2004] Even Clarke’s later opponent, National Security Adviser Rice, calls him 9/11’s “crisis management guy.” [United Press International, 4/10/2004] The conference is where the government’s emergency defense efforts are concentrated.

(Between 9:50-10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Numerous False Reports of Terrorist Acts in Washington
There are numerous false reports of additional terror attacks. Before 10:00 a.m., some hear reports on television of a fire at the State Department. At 10:20 a.m., and apparently again at 10:33 a.m., it is publicly reported this was caused by a car bomb. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002] At 10:23 a.m., the Associated Press reports, “A car bomb explodes outside the State Department, senior law enforcement officials say.” [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke hears these reports at this time and asks Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in the State Department to see if the building he’s in has been hit. Armitage goes outside the building, finds out there’s no bomb, and calls his colleagues to inform them that the reports are false. Reports of a fire on the Capitol Mall also appear and are quickly found to be false. [ABC News, 9/15/2002; Clarke, 2004, pp. 8-9] There are numerous other false reports over the next hour, including explosions at the Capitol building and USA Today headquarters. [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002] For instance, CNN reports an explosion on Capitol Hill at 10:12 a.m. CNN then announces this is untrue 12 minutes later. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2001]

September 11-16, 2001: Pakistan Threatened; Promises to Support US
ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, extending his Washington visit because of the 9/11 attacks, meets with US officials and negotiates Pakistan’s cooperation with the US against al-Qaeda. It is rumored that later in the day of 9/11 and again the next day, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visits Mahmood and offers him the choice: “Help us and breathe in the 21st century along with the international community or be prepared to live in the Stone Age.” [Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 9/12/2001; Japan Economic Newswire, 9/17/2001; LA Weekly, 11/9/2001] Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf will write in a 2006 book (see September 25, 2006) that Armitage actually threatens to bomb Pakistan “back to the stone age.” However, Armitage will deny using this wording and say he did not threaten military force. [National Public Radio, 9/22/2006] Secretary of State Powell presents Mahmood seven demands as an ultimatum and Pakistan supposedly agrees to all seven. [Washington Post, 1/29/2002] Mahmood also has meetings with Senator Joseph Biden (D), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Secretary of State Powell, regarding Pakistan’s position. [New York Times, 9/13/2001 pdf file; Reuters, 9/13/2001; Associated Press, 9/13/2001; Miami Herald, 9/16/2001] On September 13, the airport in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, is shut down for the day. A government official later says the airport had been closed because of threats made against Pakistan’s “strategic assets,” but does not elaborate. The next day, Pakistan declares “unstinting” support for the US, and the airport is reopened. It is later suggested that Israel and India threatened to attack Pakistan and take control of its nuclear weapons if Pakistan did not side with the US. [LA Weekly, 11/9/2001] It is later reported that Mahmood’s presence in Washington was a lucky blessing; one Western diplomat saying it “must have helped in a crisis situation when the US was clearly very, very angry.” [Financial Times, 9/18/2001]

(3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Bush Meets with Top Officials via Video Conference Call
At Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, President Bush convenes the first meeting of the National Security Council since the attacks occurred. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26] He begins the video conference call from a bunker beneath the base. He and Chief of Staff Andrew Card visually communicate directly with Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director Tenet, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, and others. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] According to Clarke, Bush begins the meeting by saying, “I’m coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” But according to Condoleezza Rice, he begins with the words, “We’re at war.” Clarke leads a quick review of what has already occurred, and issues that need to be quickly addressed. Bush asks CIA Director Tenet who he thinks is responsible for the day’s attacks. Tenet later recalls, “I told him the same thing I had told the vice president several hours earlier: al-Qaeda. The whole operation looked, smelled, and tasted like bin Laden.” Tenet tells Bush that passenger manifests show that three known al-Qaeda operatives had been on Flight 77. According to Tenet, when he tells the president in particular about Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (two of the alleged Flight 77 hijackers), Bush gives Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, “one of those ‘I thought I was supposed to be the first to know’ looks.” (Other evidence indicates the third al-Qaeda operative whose name is on the passenger manifest would be Salem Alhazmi (see 9:53 p.m. September 11, 2001).) Tenet tells the meeting that al-Qaeda is “the only terrorist organization capable of such spectacular, well-coordinated attacks,” and that “Intelligence monitoring had overheard a number of known bin Laden operatives congratulating each other after the attacks. Information collected days earlier but only now being translated indicated that various known operatives around the world anticipated a big event. None specified the day, time, place or method of attack.” Richard Clarke later corroborates that Tenet had at this time told the president he was certain that al-Qaeda was to blame. Yet only six weeks later, in an October 24, 2001 interview, Rice will claim differently. She will say, “In the first video conference, the assumption that everybody kind of shared was that it was global terrorists.… I don’t believe anybody said this is likely al-Qaeda. I don’t think so.” Tenet also relays a warning the CIA has received from French intelligence, saying another group of terrorists is within US borders and is preparing a second wave of attacks. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld briefs on the status of US forces, and states that about 120 fighters are now above US cities. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26-27; Clarke, 2004, pp. 21-22; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326 and 554; Tenet, 2007, pp. 169] The meeting reportedly ends around 4:00-4:15 p.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]

(After 4:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Leaders Determine to Crush Taliban
After President Bush leaves his video conference, other top leaders continue to discuss what steps to take. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke asks what to do about al-Qaeda, assuming they are behind the attacks. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage states, “Look, we told the Taliban in no uncertain terms that if this happened, it’s their ass. No difference between the Taliban and al-Qaeda now. They both go down.” Regarding Pakistan, the Taliban’s patrons, Armitage says, “Tell them to get out of the way. We have to eliminate the sanctuary.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 22-23]

August-September 2002: ’Stunningly Explicit and Specific’ Warning Fails to Stop Bali Bombing
A number of governments are given warnings suggesting an upcoming attack on nightclubs on the island of Bali, Indonesia, but this does not prevent the bombing of two nightclubs in Bali in October 2002 (see October 12, 2002). Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, an al-Qaeda operative with Canadian citizenship, attended a meeting held in southern Thailand led by Hambali, an al-Qaeda leader who also heads the al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Hambali announces a new plan to target nightclubs and restaurants in Southeast Asia. A second meeting held shortly thereafter also attended by Jabarah narrowed the target to nightclubs in Bali. Jabarah was arrested in Oman in April 2002 and deported to Canada. By August, he is in the US and interrogated by US agents, and he reveals this attack plan. As a result, US officials pass a warning to all Southeast Asian governments in August. [Sydney Morning Herald, 10/10/2003] In September, a secret report compiled by the CIA, State Department, and other US agencies lists six likely bomb targets in Indonesia, including two Bali nightclubs that are just a short distance away from the two that will ultimately be attacked one month later. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 6/26/2003] On September 26, 2002, the US embassy in Indonesia issues a public warning that states, “Americans and Westerners should avoid large gatherings, and locations known to cater primarily to a Western clientele such as certain bars, restaurants and tourist areas.” However, the US State Department does not issue any travel warning for Indonesia, and other governments such as Australia do not issue any warnings. There also is no evidence that the owners of Bali nightclubs are given any warnings. The Sydney Morning Herald will conclude in 2003 that it is now “impossible for anyone to believe that Mohammed Mansour Jabarah’s interrogation did not result in the US learning of JI’s plan for a terrorist attack in Bali.” Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will later call Jabarah’s warning “stunningly explicit and specific.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 10/10/2003]

January 20-21, 2003
Bush and his advisors respond to statements made the previous day by Russian, French, Chinese, and German ministers expressing satisfaction with the weapons inspection process. Bush says: “He’s not disarming. As a matter of fact, it appears to be a rerun of a bad movie. He is delaying, he is deceiving, he is asking for time. He’s playing hide-and-seek with inspectors.… It’s clear to me now that he is not disarming. And, surely, our friends have learned lessons from the past. Surely we have learned how this man deceives and delays.… This business about more time—how much time do we need to see clearly that he’s not disarming? As I said, this looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I’m not interested in watching it.” [US President, 1/27/2003] US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage also disputes the notion that Saddam is cooperating with inspectors. “Our other options are just about exhausted at this point,” he asserts “This regime has very little time left to undo the legacy of 12 years. There is no sign, there is not one sign that the regime has any intent to comply fully.” [Washington Post, 1/22/2003]

January 25, 2003: Libby Presents Early Draft of Powell UN Speech to Several Top Officials
Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, presents the latest draft of a paper that is meant to serve as a rebuttal to Iraq’s December 7 declaration (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003) to Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage, Michael Gerson, and Karen Hughes. The paper, written with the help of John Hannah, is supposed to serve as the basis for the speech Secretary of State Colin Powell will deliver to the UN Security Council on February 5 (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003). In his presentation, Libby says that intercepts and human intelligence reports indicate that Saddam Hussein has been attempting to conceal items. He doesn’t know what items are being hidden by the Iraqis, but he says it must be weapons of mass destruction. He also claims that Iraq has extensive ties to al-Qaeda, and cites the alleged meeting between Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi Intelligence agent (see April 8, 2001) as one example. While Armitage is disappointed with Libby’s presentation, Wolfowitz and Rove seem impressed. Karen Hughes warns Libby not to stretch the facts. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 368; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 175]

February 1, 2003-February 4, 2003: Powell Refuses to Include Certain Material in His Speech Linking Iraq to Islamic Militants
On February 1, Secretary of State Colin Powell begins rehearsing for his February 5 presentation to the UN Security Council (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003). Powell is assisted by members of his staff, including his chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. [US News and World Report, 6/9/2003; Bamford, 2004, pp. 368-9; Gentlemen’s Quarterly, 4/29/2004] Several members of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) drop in during the pre-speech sessions, including Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, and Lewis Libby. George Tenet and his deputy director, John McLaughlin, are also present at times. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 369; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 230] The WHIG members want Powell to include material from a new 25-page report on Hussein’s purported connections to Islamic militants that was compiled by Douglas Feith’s office. But Powell and his staff reject a good portion of the report. At one point, Powell pulls Wilkerson aside and tells him, “I’m not reading this. This is crazy.” [US News and World Report, 6/9/2003; Gentlemen’s Quarterly, 4/29/2004; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 230; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 180] According to Wilkerson, Feith’s office had strung together an incomprehensible “genealogy.” “It was like the Bible,” Wilkerson later recalls. “It was the Old Testament. It was ‘Joe met Bob met Frank met Bill met Ted met Jane in Khartoum and therefore we assume that Bob knew Ralph.’ It was incredible.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 180-181] According to an official (probably Wilkerson) interviewed by author James Bamford, “On a number of occasions,… [Powell] simply said, ‘I’m not using that, I’m not using that, that is not good enough. That’s not something that I can support.’ And on each occasion he was fought by the vice president’s office in the person of Scooter Libby, by the National Security Advisor [Condoleezza Rice] herself, by her deputy [Steve Hadley], and sometimes by the intelligence people—George [Tenet] and [Deputy CIA Director] John [McLaughlin].” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 370] On a few occasions, material rejected by Powell reappears in subsequent versions of the speech. This is especially true with the allegation that Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague (see April 8, 2001). The WHIG members appear determined to link Iraq directly to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. One official later explains: “We cut it and somehow it got back in. And the secretary said, ‘I thought I cut this?’ And Steve Hadley looked around and said, ‘My fault, Mr. Secretary, I put it back in.’ ‘Well, cut it, permanently!’ yelled Powell. It was all cartoon. The specious connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, much of which I subsequently found came probably from the INC and from their sources, defectors and so forth, [regarding the] training in Iraq for terrorists.… No question in my mind that some of the sources that we were using were probably Israeli intelligence. That was one thing that was rarely revealed to us—if it was a foreign source.” [US News and World Report, 6/9/2003; Bamford, 2004, pp. 370-1; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 230] One of the allegations Powell rehearses is the claim that Iraq has developed mobile biological weapons laboratories, a claim based on sources that US intelligence knows are of questionable reliability (see Late January, 2003). Referring to one of the sources, an Iraqi major, Powell later tells the Los Angeles Times, “What really made me not pleased was they had put out a burn [fabricator] notice on this guy, and people who were even present at my briefings knew it.” Nor does anyone inform Powell that another source, an Iraqi defector known as Curveball, is also a suspected fabricator (see January 27, 2003). [Los Angeles Times, 11/20/2005] In fact, the CIA issued an official “burn notice” formally retracting more than 100 intelligence reports based on Curveball’s information. [ABC News, 3/13/2007] In March 2007, Powell will claim he is “angry and disappointed” that he was never told the CIA had doubts about the reliability of the source. “I spent four days at CIA headquarters, and they told me they had this nailed.” But former CIA chief of European operations Tyler Drumheller will later claim in a book that he tried and failed to keep the Curveball information out of the Powell speech. “People died because of this,” he will say. “All off this one little guy who all he wanted to do was stay in Germany.” Drumheller will say he personally redacted all references to Curveball material in an advance draft of the Powell speech. “We said, ‘This is from Curveball. Don’t use this.’” But Powell later says neither he nor his chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, were ever told of any doubts about Curveball. “In fact, it was the exact opposite,” Wilkerson will assert. “Never from anyone did we even hear the word ‘Curveball,’ let alone any expression of doubt in what Secretary Powell was presenting with regard to the biological labs.” [ABC News, 3/13/2007]

March 27, 2003
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage tells the House Committee on Appropriations during a hearing on a supplemental war regulation: “This is not Afghanistan… When we approach the question of Iraq, we realize here is a country which has a resource. And it’s obvious, it’s oil. And it can bring in and does bring in a certain amount of revenue each year… $10, $15, even $18 billion… this is not a broke country.” [US Congress, 9/30/2003]

May 4, 2003: US Immediately Rejects Comprehensive Peace Proposal by Iran’s Top Leadership
In the wake of the US-led conquest of Iraq, the government of Iran worries that they will be targeted for US invasion next. Sadegh Kharrazi, Iran’s ambassador to France and the nephew of Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, drafts a bold proposal to negotiate with the US on all the outstanding conflicts between them. [American Prospect, 5/21/2006] The proposal was reviewed and approved by Iran’s top leaders Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mohammad Khatami, and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi. Tim Guldimann, the Swiss ambassador to Iran, is used as an intermediary since the US and Iran do not have formal diplomatic relations. [Washington Post, 2/14/2007]

 

  • According to the language of the proposal, it offers “decisive action against any terrorists (above all, al-Qaeda) in Iranian territory” and “full cooperation and exchange of all relevant information.” In return, Iran wants “pursuit of anti-Iranian terrorists, above all [the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK)],” a dissident Iranian group which the US officially lists as a terrorist organization.
  • Iran also offers to accept much tighter controls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for “full access to peaceful nuclear technology.” It proposes “full transparency for security [assurance] that there are no Iranian endeavors to develop or possess WMD” and “full cooperation with IAEA based on Iranian adoption of all relevant instruments (93+2 and all further IAEA protocols).” That is a references to IAEA protocols that would guarantee the IAEA access to any declared or undeclared facility on short notice.
  • The proposal also offers a dramatic change in Iranian policy towards Israel. Iran would accept an Arab league declaration approving a land-for-peace principle and a comprehensive peace with Israel in return for Israel’s withdrawal to 1967 lines, a softening of Iran’s usual policy.
  • The proposal further offers to stop any Iranian support of Palestinian opposition groups such as Hamas and proposes to convert Hezbollah into “a mere political organization within Lebanon.” It further offers “coordination of Iranian influence for activity supporting political stabilization and the establishment of democratic institutions and a nonreligious government” in Iraq.
  • In return, Iran wants a democratic government in Iran, which would mean its Shiite allies would come to power since the Shiites make up a majority of the Iraqi population. The proposal wants the US to remove Iran from its “axis of evil” and list of terrorism sponsors.

The American Prospect will later comment that “Iran’s historic proposal for a broad diplomatic agreement should have prompted high-level discussions over the details of an American response.” State Department counter-terrorism expert Flynt Leverett will later call it a “respectable effort” to start negotiations with the US. But within days, the US rejects the proposal without even holding an interagency meeting to discuss its possible merits. Guldimann, the Swiss intermediary, is reprimanded for having passed the proposal to the US. [American Prospect, 5/21/2006] Larry Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, will later say that it was a significant proposal for beginning “meaningful talks” between the US and Iran but that it “was a non-starter so long as [Dick] Cheney was Vice President and the principal influence on Bush.” [Newsweek, 2/8/2007] He will also say that the State Department supported the offer, “ut as soon as it got to the Vice President’s office, the old mantra of ‘We don’t talk to evil‘… reasserted itself” and Cheney’s office turned the offer down. [BBC, 1/18/2007] Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will later claim that, “We couldn’t determine what was the Iranians’ and what was the Swiss ambassador’s,” and says that he though the Iranians “were trying to put too much on the table.” National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will say of the proposal, “perhaps somebody saw something of the like” but “I just don’t remember ever seeing any such thing.” [Newsweek, 2/8/2007] Colin Powell will later say that President Bush simply didn’t want to negotiate with an Iranian government that he believed should not be in power. “My position… was that we ought to find ways to restart talks with Iran… But there was a reluctance on the part of the president to do that.” He also says, “You can’t negotiate when you tell the other side, ‘Give us what a negotiation would produce before the negotiations start.’” [Newsweek, 2/12/2007] Days later, Iran will propose a more limited exchange of al-Qaeda prisoners for MEK prisoners, but the US will reject that too (see Mid-May 2003). In 2007, the BBC will note, “Observers say the Iranian offer as outlined nearly four years ago corresponds pretty closely to what Washington is demanding from Tehran now.” [BBC, 1/18/2007]

September 25, 2006: Pakistani President Musharraf Publishes Controversial Autobiography
President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan publishes his autobiography, In the Line of Fire, generating a number of controversies:

 

  • He speculates that Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was involved in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl (see January 23, 2002) and is said to have wired money to the 9/11 hijackers (see Early August 2001), may have been recruited by MI6 in the 1990s (see Before April 1993). The Independent will also comment, “he does not mention that British-born Omar Saeed Sheikh, who planned the Pearl abduction, had surrendered a week before his arrest was announced to a general with intelligence links who was Musharraf’s friend. What happened during that week?” [Independent, 11/21/2006]
  • Musharraf writes, “Those who habitually accuse us of not doing enough in the war on terror should simply ask the CIA how much prize money it has paid to the Government of Pakistan.” [Press Trust of India, 9/28/2006] However, US law forbids rewards being paid to a government. The US Justice Department says: “We didn’t know about this. It should not happen. These bounty payments are for private individuals who help to trace terrorists on the FBI’s most-wanted list, not foreign governments.” [London Times, 9/26/2006] Musharraf then backtracks and claims the Government of Pakistan has not received any money from the US for capturing people. [Press Trust of India, 9/28/2006]
  • He also claims that State Department Official Richard Armitage threatened that if Pakistan did not co-operate with the “war on terror,” the US would bomb it “back into the stone age” (see September 11-16, 2001).

The book does not receive good reviews. For example, the Independent calls it “self-serving and self-indulgent” and concludes that “Readers who want to understand contemporary Pakistan deserve a more honest book.” [Independent, 11/21/2006] In a review with the sub-heading “Most of Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s new book cannot be believed,” the Wall Street Journal writes, “The book is not so much an autobiography as a highly selective auto-hagiography, by turns self-congratulatory, narcissistic, and mendacious.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/19/2006]