145. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Cottam/Ghotbzadeh Conversation


  • Henry Precht, IWG
  • Richard Cottam, University of Pittsburgh

Cottam reached Ghotbzadeh early this morning after considerable difficulty. The conversation was hard to follow as Ghotbzadeh insisted on speaking in “code.”

Ghotbzadeh insisted that it was possible to reach a settlement before the Iranian presidential elections. In fact, he thinks a settlement would assure him of victory. He believes he has Khomeini’s backing in reaching a settlement. In the past, “85 different people” in Qom were telling Khomeini how to handle the crisis. Now he (Ghotbzadeh) is “in control.” Cottam interprets this to mean that Khomeini nods affirmatively when Ghotbzadeh puts an idea to him.

Ghotbzadeh’s principal point was that he had great confidence in Waldheim and was anxious that we allow Waldheim to set the pace for a settlement. Our pressure for sanctions was making it very hard for Ghotbzadeh to maneuver. We should listen to Waldheim, the Iranians were taking their lead from him. Cottam said he had the impression that Waldheim was developing proposals which included a delay on the vote on sanctions but we were not listening to Waldheim and the effect was to restrict Ghotbzadeh’s freedom of maneuver. Ghotbzadeh said he had complete confidence in Farhang who spoke for him.

A second principal point was Ghotbzadeh’s emphasis on extradition from Panama. Cottam said he questioned him sharply asking him whether extradition was a realistic consideration or just something in Ghotbzadeh’s mind. Ghotbzadeh replied that he was very confident of what he was saying because he had spoken directly to Panamanian leaders. Nevertheless it was not clear to Cottam whether Ghotbzadeh was talking about extradition or an extradition trial. Ghotbzadeh made two comments to Cottam on Panama. First, all the Americans have to do “is to give Panama the green light and they will go ahead as planned.” Second, perhaps the U.S. should send “the same man” down there to [Page 384] discuss the crisis with Panama. There was no indication who this might be.

I asked Cottam whether the Panama track seemed an essential part of Ghotbzadeh’s plan. He said it clearly was but it did not seem to be linked in timing or substance to the UN activity. There plainly had to be some movement in Panama, possibly for an extradition trial, for Ghotbzadeh to succeed.

Cottam asked Ghotbzadeh about the linkage between Afghanistan and the hostages and whether an argument could be made to Khomeini that once the hostage issue was over, Iran could assume a world role in opposing the Soviets. Ghotbzadeh said Afghanistan was still important to him and others on the Revolutionary Council but it was not an effective argument with Khomeini. Ghotbzadeh had gotten into some trouble within the “party” because of his strong statement on Afghanistan.

In closing, Ghotbzadeh reemphasized that he was very positive on Waldheim who he thought was handling the crisis well. It could be ended in ten days if we relaxed on sanctions.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Box 31, Subject File, Iran 1/11/80–1/31/80. Secret; Sensitive. Copies were sent to S, D, P, NEA, Cogan (CIA), and Sick (NSC).