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

124. Subject: Iranian Approach on Hostages Question.

1. (S–Entire text).

2. In telephone conversation with Amb McHenry (arranged on confidential basis and placed by Bangladesh Amb Kaiser) at 5:30 pm Jan 11, Iranian Amb Farhang urged a delay in the SC vote on sanctions2 until a commission could go to Tehran and work out package deal that would result in release of hostages.

3. After apologizing for “playing hide and seek” with McHenry, Farhang said he had shortly before had a good conversation with his FonMin who had met with Khomeini and discussed the possibility of a package that would involve a commission going to Iran. Ghotbzadeh reported that Khomeini had approved completely, and Farhang said that Ghotbzadeh sounded more optimistic than he had ever heard him.

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4. Farhang described the proposal as follows:3 A commission would be formed and sent to Iran; meanwhile action in the SC would be postponed. The Commission would return after a week in Iran and there would be a “symbolic” resolution adopted by the General Assembly that would “recognize” the Iranian grievances and claims to assets removed from Iran by the Shah. Once this resolution were adopted, the hostages would be released.4 Farhang expressed the view that the situation in Iran was more favorable for a solution than ever before. It was important to delay any action in the SC on sanctions, as there were elements in Iran that wished to exploit it. It was a war of nerves.

5. Amb McHenry pointed out that the proposal was vague and did not guarantee immediate release of the hostages. Moreover, there were procedural problems, as the GA was not in regular session and could not be convened easily. The current emergency session, he noted, had been called under a very special procedure following a veto in the SC.5 He saw other practical problems. Once the commission were formed it would have to arrive at conclusions regarding the claims to assets. Moreover, in order to delay action in the SC on the basis of such a proposal it was necessary to have confidence in the authority of those making the proposal. He was afraid the FonMin did not have the necessary authority. It appeared to us that only Khomeini and/or the group holding the hostages had the necessary authority.

6. McHenry suggested that it would be useful for Farhang to work out a package proposal with the SYG and then have it announced as having been approved by Khomeini. In the absence of something tangible we could not pull back from our sanctions proposal. Otherwise those in Iran who opposed the GOI policy and had been predicting its adverse effects would be undercut. Pointing out that he had in the past several times persuaded his govt to delay action, McHenry said he had difficulty now in convincing himself personally that further delay was warranted.

7. McHenry said he would inform Secretary Vance of the proposal and fully protect the confidentiality of Farhang’s direct approach to him. He repeated that he saw both substantive and procedural problems with the proposal, however. Moreover, if the commission idea [Page 374] were to be followed, in present circumstances some kind of authoritative statement from Iran would be required in order to delay SC action on sanctions.

8. McHenry also informed Farhang that he had passed to SYG Waldheim on Jan 7 a detailed six-point package covering all aspects of the problem.6 If Farhang had not received it, he should ask Waldheim about it as it was a complete and forthright statement of our position. He had reviewed it with Third World SC members Jan 10 so they would understand the extent to which we have gone in seeking a solution to this problem.

  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; Immediate; Nodis. A stamped notation in the upper right corner of the telegram reads: “Newsom has seen, Jan 12 1980.”
  2. On January 11 the United States submitted a draft resolution to the Security Council calling for economic sanctions against Iran. (Department of State Bulletin, February 1980, p. 70) The Security Council met January 11–13. See Document 147.
  3. According to telegram 127 from USUN, January 12, Farhang told Waldheim that Iran would release the hostages as soon as the UN recognized the legitimacy of Iranian demands for the return of the Shah and his assets. Waldheim suggested to Farhang that a UN Commission of Inquiry might be the vehicle to achieve this end. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 30, Iran 1/11/80–1/31/80)
  4. An unknown hand underlined this sentence and, in the right margin, wrote: [text not declassified].
  5. The General Assembly was meeting in emergency session to discuss Afghanistan.
  6. See Document 137.