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History Of Outreach To Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that if the Iranian government complies with UN Security Council demands and suspends its uranium-enrichment related activities – activities that can be used to produce nuclear weapons -- she will meet with her Iranian counterpart “any time, anywhere, to talk about any thing.”

U.S. willingness to engage with the Iranian government is not new, says U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. After a recent speech in Washington, D.C., Mr. Gates noted that he was present in Algiers in 1979 at the first meeting that took place between a senior U.S. government official and leadership of the Islamic Republic. Representing the U.S. at the meeting, said Mr. Gates, was U.S. National Security Advisor at the time, Zbigniew Brzezinski:

“He walked into that meeting and in essence said, ‘We will accept your revolution. We will recognize your country. We will recognize your government ... We can work together in the future.’ Their [the Iranians’] response was ‘Give us the Shah.’ Each [side] repeated their respective positions about five or six times, and at the end, Brzezinski stood up and said, ‘To give you the Shah would be incompatible with our national honor.’ And that ended it, and three days later, they seized our embassy.”

Mr. Gates said that since then, every U.S. administration has reached out to Iran’s leaders, in one way or another, and all have failed:

“The reality is the Iranian leadership has been consistently unyielding over a very long period of time in response to repeated overtures from the United States about having a different and better kind of relationship.”

In September, the UN Security Council adopted a new resolution reaffirming its demand for the Iranian government to suspend all uranium enrichment-related activities. Secretary of Defense Gates says the requirement that Iran comply with that demand is a reasonable precondition to high-level talks. “And it seems to me,” said Mr. Gates, “that the effort we are engaged in with our allies, with Russia and China, in terms of bringing pressure to bear on the Iranians to change their approach to the rest of the world, is probably the best way to go about this.”