150. Memorandum for the Record by Henry Precht, Iran Working Group1


  • Richard Cottom Conversation with Farhang and Ghotbzadeh

I asked Cottam to explore with Farhang and Ghotbzadeh whether they thought there were still opportunities to move towards a settlement in the light of the vote on sanctions and the presidential campaign in Tehran.

Farhang was very pessimistic. He told Cottam that the improved atmosphere that had been created with Waldheim’s visit was smashed by the vote on sanctions and would have to be recreated. Perhaps if an investigating team were to go to Tehran the atmosphere could begin to improve.

Farhang said that the American problem was that we were rational. An additional complication was Waldheim who shared our views and was not forceful in presenting the Iranian point of view.

Another difficulty was our failure to understand that a “package deal” was not possible. We would simply not be able to devise a complete agreement and present it to Khomeini for approval. Khomeini doesn’t think in terms of trade-offs or bargaining. Cottam agreed with me that we might be able to work out a package deal with the Revolutionary Council, but in doing so we would have no assurance that Khomeini would buy it as a package. It might have to be presented to him by the Council in stages.

Farhang thought that nothing could be accomplished in Iran until after the elections. Bani-Sadr was the front runner and he would be prepared to seek a solution. During the period until the elections the only useful thing the US could do was to reduce the level of rhetoric and try to control the press. The ejection of the U.S. press from Iran would be helpful.

Farhang said that a French and an Argentinian lawyer were working on extradition in Panama.2 The Iranians were clearly thinking of [Page 397] a trial, not actual extradition. They hoped the U.S. would not block their plans. He offered to give Cottam further details later.

Farhang summed up saying that U.S. impatience on sanctions had destroyed the atmosphere. The issue of the timing of release of hostages and the wording of a resolution could have been worked out if Waldheim had been more forceful in presenting Iranian views. Those two issues should not have proved to be obstacles in reaching a settlement. The U.S. must realize, however, that in any deal there would be a large element of risk that it might be rejected by Khomeini.

Ghotbzadeh’s mood was completely different from Farhang’s. He told Cottam that the crisis could be solved in one week. It would not be solved at one swoop, but there would have to be movement day by day. Cottam said it was clear that Ghotbzadeh was counting on a settlement to advance his own presidential ambitions. Cottam asked what the U.S. should do. Ghotbzadeh replied that he was sending letters to European countries. He hoped the U.S. would help assure that the replies were favorable. Cottam speculated that the letters might request the Europeans to hold off on sanctions. If the Europeans agreed to do so there might be another opportunity for pushing for a settlement with Ghotbzadeh.

Cottam asked Ghotbzadeh about plans for Panama extradition. Ghotbzadeh merely said we are “continuing with that.” He did not seem particularly interested in Panama in this conversation. The conversation, which had taken Ghotbzadeh out of one meeting, ended when he was called away to something more urgent. He clearly wanted to continue with Cottam and said he would telephone him later.

COMMENT: Cottam and I speculated that presidential politics may influence the views of Farhang and Ghotbzadeh. Ghotbzadeh seems to be counting on a settlement to the crisis on his terms to advance his fortunes. Farhang, who strongly dislikes Ghotbzadeh, may be just as happy to see the opportunity for a settlement deferred until his favorite, Bani-Sadr, is elected president.

  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. Drafted by Precht and cleared in S/S–O. Copies were sent to S, D, P, NEA, Sick (NSC), [name not declassified] (CIA), and the Iran Working Group.
  2. Villalon and Bourguet.