282. Message From the Department of State to the Swiss Ambassador to Iran (Lang)1

We would appreciate it if the following message could be transmitted to Ambassador Lang in Tehran.

1. We have recently completed an assessment of our experiences in dealing with the hostage crisis and reached several conclusions which will guide us in this next phase of diplomatic effort. We regard the period until the new parliament convenes and addresses the hostage question as a crucial moment for preparing the ground for positive action by the legislators. Ideally, we would hope during this period to reach an understanding with the Iranian authorities as to how the hostage issue would be handled with the new parliament and what would be the most useful U.S. contribution. We would like to explore the best ways of doing that and would welcome your analysis and advice.

2. We consider that our previous efforts to negotiate release of the hostages failed largely because of the intransigence of the clerical leadership. We had concentrated our efforts on the secular leadership and left it to them to carry the arguments with the clerics. In this phase we want indirectly to try to be as persuasive as possible with the clerics. We believe Capucci may be best suited to this job, but we will explore whether others might also contribute to this process. We will be in [Page 774] touch with the Germans, French and others in this regard to see what they might be able to do.

3. In the previous phase we concentrated our attention heavily on Ghotbzadeh, and we continue to assume he will be one of the key actors. We believe, however, we must give increased attention to Bani-Sadr for it will presumably be his responsibility to guide the hostage issue through the new parliament. If he does not undertake the task, then his yet to be appointed prime minister will be responsible. We would like to continue to rely on you as our channel to official Iranians, i.e. Bani-Sadr, Ghotbzadeh, the new prime minister if and when he is appointed, and others you consider appropriate. Obviously any contribution you can make to the persuasive effort with the clerics or any advice you have on that subject would also be welcomed but we recognize that you and your government may well feel it is wise for you to leave that group to others.

4. Bourguet and Villalon will continue to be helpful in a variety of ways. We assume their primary contact will continue to be Ghotbzadeh.

5. There may be other intermediaries involved and we will try to keep you fully informed on these developments. We would be particularly interested in ideas on ways to get to the group working directly with Khomeini.

6. Parallel to our intensified diplomatic effort will be augmented pressure in the form of sanctions from our allies and friends. We believe these measures are having some political and psychological effect but are aware that the economic effects will take some time.

7. It is plain that this crisis will be resolved and the hostages released when Iran’s leadership decides that it serves their interest and the interest of the Revolution to do so. There are a variety of arguments and actions that we will put forward to bring these points home to key figures, and we will welcome your insights and suggestions for this process.

8. We believe it would be useful at this stage if you could arrange a tour d’horizon with Bani-Sadr to review the present situation, prospects for favorable parliamentary action, the state of planning for such action, and international initiatives that might usefully contribute to that process, especially initiatives by the U.S. We would like to develop as frank an exchange with Bani-Sadr as possible and believe a matching exchange might usefully be held with Ghotbzadeh. We would appreciate your assessment after these conversations so that we can refine our planning.

9. One other issue concerns us. We have heard increasing talk from Tehran again about trial of the hostages. Do you believe this is again becoming a real threat? If so, do you have thoughts about how to turn it aside?

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 33, Iran Update 5/80. Secret. Attached to an undated briefing memorandum from Saunders to Christopher and Newsom entitled “May 14—Iran Update.”