125. Handwritten Note From Director of Central Intelligence Turner to Secretary of State Vance 1


Because the imposition of sanctions appears to be such a watershed, I did some brainstorming with our analysts on other approaches to securing release of the hostages. Attached is a 1¼ page think piece—it’s all policy and your business—accordingly I drop it with you and let it go at that—



Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency 2

Breaking the Logjam


• Secure timely release of all hostages.


• Secret negotiations with key Revolutionary Council members (Beheshti and/or Ghotbzadeh). This meeting to take place with foreknowledge of Khomeini.

• Use individual with acceptable credentials (e.g., Prof. Richard Cottam).

[Page 336]

US Position:

Emissary to go with the understood authority to propose a solution.

• Opening

—US not enemy of Islam or Iran

—Note that recent Soviet invasion of Afghanistan makes it more imperative for both US and Iran to resolve crisis

—Iran needs to be in a position to stand up to the USSR, and to possible Soviet subversion among the Kurds, Azerbaijanis, and other minorities

—The US wants to be in a position to help—but cannot while US diplomats are held hostage

—We recognize that Iran may feel committed to some sort of trial or tribunal. Obviously the US cannot welcome, approve, or condone any such Iranian action. But if it can be completed quickly and all hostages pardoned and released immediately, the US is willing to:

—defer final action on UN sanctions

—make no attempt to block the holding of a trial or tribunal

• US would agree to the following:

—US prepared to issue a statement along the following lines:

—US reiterates respect for Iranian sovereignty and the right of the Iranian people to determine their own destiny

—US recognizes the right of the Iranian government to attempt to recover property it claims in accordance with American legal procedures

—US recognizes the Islamic Republic of Iran as the sole legitimate representative of the Iranian people and accepts the decision by the Iranian people to end the rule of the Pahlavi dynasty

—US refer to former Shah only as Mohammed Reza Pahlavi

—US willing to delay seeking of sanctions, which are not to the benefit of the world community, if there is prospect for speedy resolution of crisis

—Suspend deportation of Iranian students

—Not stand in way of International Tribunal to review record of Shah

—After the release of the hostages the US will seek arrangements whereby Iran can secure spare parts through third parties to allow Iran’s military to defend Iran from armed threats to the Islamic Republic. In this regard the US takes particular notice of recent Soviet activities in Afghanistan.

Sought from Iran:

• Speedily convene Tribunal

• Release of all hostages and guaranteed safe exit

• Agreement to enter into dialogue to determine US-Iran future relationship

  1. Source: Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Swiss Channel. Secret; Sensitive; Noforn. The editor transcribed the text from the handwritten original.
  2. Secret; Sensitive; Noforn.