- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and its allies would periodically launch “peace offensives” in an effort to rehabilitate their image and win concessions from the West. In essence, they would talk about peaceful coexistence and make conciliatory-sounding gestures, without substantively changing their policies. All of the evidence thus far suggests that the “secret letter” reportedly sent to President Bush by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is much the same thing.

The letter, which comes to light one day after Mr. Ahmadinejad reiterated his threat to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is simply an effort to stall for time; to help those in Russia and China who profit financially by bolstering Iran’s military-industrial complex; to undercut the position of those in the European Union who are inching toward an understanding that this Iranian regime will not negotiate in good faith; and to strengthen the hand of those in the United States who believe that the Bush administration (not the malevolence of the mullahs) is to blame for the Iranian nuclear crisis.

After this newspaper published several recent editorials noting Tehran’s intransigence and dishonesty, we were accused by some left-wing blogs of ignoring Iranian peace overtures. The critics specifically quote Flynt Leverett, a Clinton administration holdover, who handled the Middle East portfolio at the National Security Council during 2002 and 2003 before resigning and becoming an adviser to John Kerry’s presidential campaign. Mr. Leverett asserted in a New York Times op-ed published earlier this year that Iran had indicated a willingness to negotiate with Washington over the nuclear issue in May 2003, but was spurned by the Bush administration.

To put it mildly, this is a tendentious and questionable reading of what had actually taken place. After September 11, there had been U.S.-Iranian cooperation over the future of Afghanistan in the final months of 2001. But then-Secretary of State Colin Powell soon soured on the relationship, complaining about the negative role that iran was playing in Afghanistan (including Iran’s role in the smuggling of 50 tons of weapons to Gaza aboard the Karine-A in January 2002). The May 2003 meetings mentioned by Mr. Leverett were cancelled because Washington was furious over Iran’s harboring of al Qaeda terrorists.

When it comes to Iranian duplicity, however, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past 27 years, U.S. administrations of both parties tried repeatedly to work out a compromise with Iran, only to have their efforts cruelly rebuffed. This needs to be kept in mind when evaluating Tehran’s latest “peace offensive.”

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