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

1. We would like to clarify as precisely as possible the thinking of Bani-Sadr, Ghotbzadeh, Habibi (and other leaders you might appropriately contact) regarding the possibility of hostage trials. We would also like them to understand our strong objections to that procedure but our recognition that Iran will try to find a means to end the crisis that [Page 807] meets its political needs. The oral message transmitted herewith is intended for President Bani-Sadr, and you may also give a copy to Ghotbzadeh. We suggest that with others you simply use these ideas in conversations.

2. Begin text of oral message for Bani-Sadr: The Iranian radio, TV and various newspapers, as well as public figures, are again speaking of the possibility of placing our diplomats on trial. You are aware of our strong and very serious concern about the dangers of this procedure. We are confident our view is fully shared by almost all other governments who also reject the idea of further violations of the immunity of diplomats. The International Court of Justice has clearly expressed a unanimous judgment that our diplomats should not be involved in judicial proceedings.2 We are also sure that Iran’s leaders agree that it is essential to civilized international order to preserve the principle of diplomatic immunity.

The American people and others throughout the world who have shown their sympathy for Iranian feelings would not understand or accept trials of innocent diplomats. By no standard of international law, human rights or religion could our diplomats reasonably be placed on trial.

In the interest of the stability of Iran and of its region, we want to see the present crisis urgently settled in a peaceful, honorable and harmonious manner, at the earliest opportunity. We have said, and we have understood Iranian leaders to say, that there is no wish to humiliate the other side. If the crisis can be resolved without acrimony or an attempt to debase the other side, efforts can be made to remove the damage to Iran which has resulted from the seizure of the hostages. An official trial of the hostages would seriously impair international respect for Iran for a long time to come and place in jeopardy diplomats of all nations, including Iran, throughout the world.

We recognize the deep and abiding feeling in Iran that Iran’s grievances are not being adequately reflected in world opinion. We have said repeatedly that we have no objection to the provision of appropriate means for expressing Iran’s grievances if that would help solve the crisis. It was with this thought in mind that we cooperated in the establishment of the UN Commission. We understand that Iran intended the recent conference in Tehran for this purpose.3 We understand further that the new Parliament will examine the hostage issue. There should be sufficient opportunity in its deliberations for the [Page 808] elected representatives to express Iran’s feelings toward the former Iranian regime and the United States, without direct involvement of American diplomats.

Our overriding concern is to do nothing that would jeopardize the safety, prolong the confinement or humiliate the hostages. Their welfare and their dignity as individuals must be protected. We feel confident that simple, dignified procedures can be devised to release the hostages and to hear Iran’s grievances. Similarly, adequate means can be established to resolve the bilateral disputes between the United States and Iran. We would welcome the President’s views on this subject as conveyed through Ambassador Lang. We would also be prepared to suggest ideas.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Box 42, Subject File, Iran Papers 5/80–7/80. Secret. Sick thought the message, which resulted from the June 3 SCC discussion (see Document 291), did an “excellent job of subtly suggesting” acceptable arrangements, but he found it to be missing the “tough warning which was initially the object of the exercise.” (Memorandum from Sick to Brzezinski, June 6; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Box 42, Subject File, Iran Papers 5/80–7/80)

  2. See footnote 2, Document 286.
  3. See footnote 9, Document 291. Sick placed brackets around this sentence and stated in his June 6 memorandum to Brzezinski (see footnote 1 above) that he thought it was “gratuitous.” Brzezinski approved the telegram with this sentence deleted.