132. Telegram From the U.S. Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

49. Urgent for Secretary Vance from McHenry. Subject: Iran: Conversation With Waldheim on his Visit to Tehran.

(Secret–Entire text)

1. Waldheim asked to see me after this morning’s (Jan 5) Security Council meeting2 to discuss his visit to Iran. As Waldheim left the [Page 351] Council chamber for his office he engaged in a highly emotional exchange with Amb Naik (Pakistan). Waldheim was still worked up when we began our conversation. Probably only Mrs. Waldheim would believe how emotional and angry he was.

2. Waldheim began with sharp criticism of Naik, Pakistan FM Shahi and all others who offered him advice without knowing what they were talking about and with only the objective of getting a piece of the action. Shahi had misled him, had told him that he would be welcome and received by the Revolutionary Council and Khomeini. Instead of a welcome he had barely managed to escape with his life.

3. Waldheim then went on to describe the harrowing scene at the cemetery. He recalled that for a brief period he [was] left alone in the car with an angry mob outside and made it to the waiting helicopter by directing the non-English speaking driver down a sidewalk and between rows of tombstones. In Waldheim’s view the demonstration was not accidental [and] consisted of hystericals who had been bussed to the cemetery even though his appearance was unexpected (the visit, although previously scheduled, had been publicly cancelled after an assassination plot was discovered.)

4. On his visit to the Revolutionary Council, Waldheim said he was forced to walk 200 yards in darkness through a threatening mob. On his departure the mob knocked Ghotbzadeh to the ground while pushing Waldheim ahead alone.

5. With regard to his discussions, Waldheim said he spent most of his time listening to Iranian charges against the United States. He said he found an unreasoning hatred against the United States and against the United Nations, which the Iranians believe to be under American control.

6. Waldheim said that all of the familiar names were present at the Revolutionary Council meeting. The Council was made up of well-meaning but naive and powerless men. Only Khomeini exercised power; but Khomeini’s power was certain only if he took no action which might meet with the opposition of the “students” at the Embassy. The “students” were “a state within a state.” Khomeini is a weak fanatic who refuses to do what he can to save his country from an abyss.3

7. Waldheim said that he saw no hope for progress toward release of the hostages and, given the chaos in Iran, was concerned for their safety. In the circumstances, President Carter had an extremely difficult decision to make. Sanctions would have no effect and were even wel [Page 352] comed by Ghotbzadeh—who Waldheim thought genuinely sought a settlement.4

8. Waldheim said that he had discussed a commission of enquiry but the Iranians were naive about such a commission. They expected it to be appointed next week, to submit its conclusions within one week and have the General Assembly or the Security Council order implementation of the conclusion. Only then, presumably if they agreed with the conclusions, would the hostages be released. In Waldheim’s view this was an impossible approach and even if acceptable, contained no guarantee that the “students” would agree to release the hostages.

9. With regard to his report Waldheim said he would state that Iran was not prepared to release the hostages at the present time; however a commission of enquiry may help to defuse the situation, while the search for a peaceful solution continues. (We are datafaxing to IO bootleg—rpt bootleg—draft of Waldheim report.)5

  1. Source: Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Iran NODIS Cables Jan 1980. Secret; Niact Immediate; Nodis. An unknown hand wrote in the upper right margin of the telegram: “Good further background.”
  2. The Security Council was meeting to discuss Afghanistan.
  3. The word “weak” is circled and, in the right margin of the telegram, an unknown hand wrote: “weak? A different assessment from ours.”
  4. Waldheim met with Carter and Vance from 5 until 7:30 p.m. at the White House on January 6 and repeated much of this information. Carter told Waldheim that he would neither accept an international tribunal, try the Shah, nor allow Iranians to receive funds before the hostages were freed. He also insisted that he did not want to delay economic sanctions. (Saunders, “Diplomacy and Pressure,” American Hostages in Iran, pp. 109–110; Carter, Keeping Faith, pp. 478–479; Brzezinski, Power and Principle, p. 485) No official record of the meeting has been found.
  5. The bootleg version is attached to the January 6 Iran Update memorandum from Saunders to Vance. (Department of State, Official Files of [P] David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Lot 82D85, Iran Update Jan 1980) Waldheim reported on his trip to the Security Council on January 6. For a summary, see Yearbook of the United Nations, 1980, p. 309. Waldheim’s report is in telegram 63 from USUN, January 8. (Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, UN and Security Council)