287. Briefing Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Constable) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1


  • Your Meeting with Secretary General Waldheim, 6:30 p.m., May 25, in Geneva:2 Status of Initiatives


Hal Saunders and Henry Precht will return May 24, after completing their consultations in Europe.3 They had good talks with the French, the Germans and the British on ways in which their diplomats in Tehran can be helpful in working to persuade the Iranian authorities,4 especially the clerics, that a quick solution of the hostage issue is in Iran’s interest. In Vienna, Saunders discussed with Kreisky the latter’s plans for a trip this weekend to Tehran with Olof Palme of Sweden and Felipe Gonzalez of Spain.5 In Bern, Saunders and Precht had a long session with the Swiss Team on Iran and Foreign Minister Aubert.6 The Swiss offered to have their Ambassador Lang play a more active role than would be normal for a protecting power. Lang will attempt to keep abreast of and orchestrate the various initiatives and activities [Page 788] of other parties on the scene in Tehran. Saunders also met with lawyers, Bourguet and Villalon, and with Archbishop Capucci.7


1. Socialist International Initiative

Kreisky, Palme and Gonzalez still plan to arrive in Tehran within a few days. They expect to meet with Bani Sadr, Beheshti, the Revolutionary Council, and Khomeini’s son, Ahmad. Their purposes are to explore “cooperation with democratic Europe” and tangentially to have a positive impact on the hostage question.

2. Capucci/Bourguet Initiatives

Capucci and Bourguet are in Tehran. Capucci will try to see the leading authorities in Tehran to determine whether it would be useful for him to try to generate démarches in Tehran by the Syrians, Saudis, Emiratis, Kuwaitis, Algerians and Palestinians. His ideas are still unformed, but he has in mind trying to develop a consensus for the release of the hostages. Capucci and Bourguet hope to go to Damascus this weekend, after seeing the leadership in Tehran, to discuss with President Assad and possibly with Yassir Arafat ideas for resolving the crisis. Capucci feels that it is urgent to stimulate some activity before May 28, when the members of parliament first meet. We have stressed to Capucci and Bourguet in the strongest terms that we oppose trials in any form, and Capucci agrees with our position. The Vatican has agreed not to interpose objections to Capucci’s travel to Damascus, provided the USG obtains the agreement of Israel to look the other way. Capucci and Bourguet are holding in reserve the idea of a seven-nation conference. The conference would be sponsored jointly by Switzerland and Algeria with the US and Iran attending. The Swiss have decided to stay loose on this until Iranian reaction to such a conference becomes more firmly known. The Swiss recognize that a detailed negotiation of outstanding US-Iranian issues should come only after the hostages’ release.

3. Iranian Conference Initiative

The Iranians are continuing their efforts to organize a June 2–5 conference of sympathetic organizations and individuals from European and Third World countries. The stated purpose of the conference is to condemn US interference in Iran and the aborted rescue mission. There have been some suggestions that Bani Sadr sees the conference as an opening to build some support in Iran for a resolution of the [Page 789] crisis, but the reasons for his possibly believing so are unclear. So far there appear to have been very few acceptances to participate in the conference. The Iranians are attempting to persuade some Americans to attend, but realize that there could be difficulties for these individuals in obtaining validation of their passports for travel to Iran.

4. Bangladesh Initiative

The BDG at the recent Islamic Conference in Islamabad may have floated the idea of putting together a “contact group” of a few Islamic countries which would go to Tehran to try to be helpful in resolving the US-Iranian crisis. We do not know at this point whether they had any positive responses from other Islamic governments, but are checking on it with our people in Dacca.

5. UN Initiative

The Syrian advisor to President Assad, Adib Daoudi, arrived today in Tehran. His trip is at Waldheim’s request for the purpose of exploring possibilities for the UN Commission to resume its mandate. Waldheim has said that he will ask Daoudi to meet with religious leaders such as Beheshti, as well as with government officials. Foreign Minister Ghotbzadeh has publicly disassociated Daoudi’s visit from the hostage issue. This stance probably reflects Ghotbzadeh’s doubts as to whether it will be possible to use Daoudi’s visit to contribute to a solution.

Points to be Made

—I would like to reconfirm our understanding that the Daoudi visit is truly exploratory, and that there can be no question of release of the commission report except in an agreed framework for release of the hostages.

—We hope you will keep in closest touch with us, especially as regards the outcome of the Daoudi visit.

—Assistant Secretary Saunders has been in Europe this past week consulting with our major Allies on ways in which their Ambassadors in Tehran can be helpful.

Saunders has also had long talks with the Swiss government, which represents our interests in Iran. The Swiss have agreed to play an active role and will attempt to be of assistance in connection with various initiatives that are underway.

Saunders has discussed with European social democratic leaders their plans for visiting Iran. Hopefully such a visit can also have a positive impact on the hostage question.

—Archbishop Capucci is in Tehran at his own initiative attempting to explore the possibilities for Islamic countries playing a helpful role in building a consensus for the release of the hostages.

  1. Source: 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. Secret; Sensitive. Sent through Newsom. Drafted by Clement.
  2. Christopher’s meeting with Waldheim is reported in a May 25 memorandum of conversation. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P870110–0843)
  3. Saunders and Precht were in Europe the week of May 19. A Status of Diplomatic Initiatives summary, prepared for the White House, was attached to a May 27 memorandum from Saunders to Muskie, Christopher, and Newsom. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 33, Iran Update 5/80) Additional information on their trip is in a May 21 briefing memorandum from Constable to Muskie and Newsom. (Department of State, Official Files of [P] David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Lot 82D85, Iran Update May 1980)
  4. Saunders’s meeting with the French is reported in telegram 6378 from Vienna, May 21; the report of his meeting with German officials is in telegram 11031 from London, May 22; and his meeting with U.K. officials is reported in telegram 2952 from Bern, May 22. (Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Iran NODIS Cables May 1980)
  5. Saunders’s meeting with Kreisky in Austria is reported in telegram 9635 from Bonn, May 21. (Ibid.)
  6. Saunders’s meeting with the Swiss team is reported in telegram 2976 from Bern, May 23. (Ibid.)
  7. A report of Precht’s meeting with Bourguet and Villalon is in telegram 6378 from Vienna, May 21. (Ibid.) Saunders’s meeting with Capucci is reported in telegram 13084 from Rome, May 17. (Ibid.)