While the world (Israel and the U.S. in particular) waits to see if Tehran is sincere in its overtures regarding nuclear weapons, let’s take a moment to recall that we won this war 10 years ago until Dick Cheney decided that the victory was unacceptable.
Jake Bernstein and I turned this up while working on a book we wrote about Cheney, but it’s no state secret and has since been reported in a number of outlets.
By May of 2003, U.S. military forces had disposed of the Taliban in Afghanistan, made quick work of Saddam Hussein’s military, and taken control of Baghdad.
Terrified that they were next on list, the government of Iran directed Switzerland’s Ambassador to Tehran to deliver a written proposal to the Bush administration—the second official communication between the United States and Iran since radical Iranians seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the Carter Administration.
Iran wanted to begin comprehensive negotiations with the U.S. It offered to allow extensive monitoring and inspection of its nuclear program, to end its support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and to support the Saudi plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Iran wanted to begin comprehensive negotiations with the U.S. It offered to allow extensive monitoring and inspection of its nuclear program, to end its support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and to support the Saudi plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. There was even an offer to hand over al Qaeda prisoners Iran was holding in exchange for Mujahedeen-e-Khalq prisoners in U.S. custody.
“There wasn’t much more that the United States wanted,” Col. Lawrence Wilkerson told us in 2005. Wilkerson had served as Colin Powell’s assistant at the Defense Department and at the State Department.
Consider where we were in spring 2003. The radicals had not yet completely consolidated their power in Iran. The country was two years from electing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And U.S. forces appeared to be in complete control in Baghdad. The ultimately disastrous occupation coordinated by the Bush-Cheney administration not yet beginning to go south. As the Iranians sized up the situation, the U.S. was invincible.
“We turned them down,” Wilkerson told us.
Not only did the U.S. refuse to negotiate, the Bush administration sent an official reprimand to the Swiss, claiming its ambassador, Tim Guldimann, had overreached.
When I asked Wilkerson if he knew who had killed the Iranian initiative, he didn’t miss a beat.
“Yes, I know. It was the vice president of the United States,” he said.
Cheney believes that “you never negotiate with the enemy.”
Two years after Tehran reached out to the U.S., when the chaos of the American occupation was evident, Iran saw an opportunity to “bleed its enemy” as New Yorker writer Dexter Filkins has recently said and reported.
Tehran began funding militias and building the bomb factories that produced the deadliest ordinance used in the asymmetrical campaign waged against U.S. forces in Iraq. The result was death and injury for hundreds of American soldiers, victims of an Iranian campaign midwifed by Dick Cheney.
Not only did Cheney set the stage for a covert Iranian war against U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the most powerful vice president to ever occupy the office also provided Iran an extra 10 years to develop its nuclear-weapon potential.
It will require at least another 10 years for American diplomacy, if everything breaks the right way, to repair the damage done by Cheney and the neocons he had nurtured since he was George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense.
Lou Dubose of the editor of The Washington Spectator.