295. Message From the Swiss Ambassador to Iran (Lang) to the Department of State1

Please find hereafter Ambassador Lang’s reply to your message 0032 from Washington, June 11, 1980 (re trials).2

1. During the reception I tried to have the Director of the Cabinet set up a meeting with Bani Sadr. He gave me little hope for the 7th, 8th, and 9th and added that from the 10th to the 15th Bani Sadr would be invisible. This wording really puzzled me.

Last night I was with my FRG colleague who has encountered the same refusal in spite of the good offices of Tabatabai (?). He has heard a crazy rumor from a usually serious source. According to it the test of strength could occur in the coming days and Bani Sadr, Ghotbzadeh and T. might be leaving the capital if not even the country.

2. But day before yesterday, Ghotbzadeh received me and was most friendly.

2.1. He is against any kind of trial whatsoever and is struggling in that direction. (If you analyze his statements his fallback position would, if necessary, be to accept a trial condemning the United States, but not the hostages.)

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He replied to my questions as follows:

2.2. Ghotbzadeh is of the opinion that the most useful contribution to the release of the hostages is at present the unpublicized and discreet, though long and tedious work which consists in rallying the greatest possible number of members of Parliament to this thesis in order to prepare the groundwork. He added that he is working in that direction.

2.3. I then asked him if this meant that there was no way to speed up matters or bypass Parliament. Ghotbzadeh does not rule this out, but he believes that Parliament must in any event take up the highest priorities first and that “to bypass Parliament” is delicate and depends upon circumstances which have not yet materialized (a figure of speech to conceal the Imam’s permission).

2.4. Re scenarios, there are several in the air and it is not a bad thing that there be several scenarios, but at the moment, of course, there is no final version.

3. Given the climate of our discussion, I took it upon myself to tell Ghotbzadeh that rumors had reached the other side (i.e., the U.S.) accusing it of playing a political game with the scenarios, i.e., of giving preference to one group over another. I assured him that this was not the case at all, much to the contrary. The other party is anxious to have the hostages released soonest, without trial, never mind what scenario or what group. Furthermore the other side acknowledges the work and courage of certain leading figures, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs during the last few months. I added that this comment is even more valid when my own country, as protecting power, is concerned and that it does not want to meddle in any of these factional strifes inside Iran. I added that speaking personally I could only express the honor I feel at the confidence and spirit of cooperation that Ghotbzadeh has shown me and assured him of my loyalty.

Ghotbzadeh replied that he appreciated my words very much and he added that all this should be attributed to the apprenticeship of democracy which is a long and difficult process.

4. Regarding Bani Sadr, I intend to try to see Sandjabi and if I do I will hand over to him a non-paper.3

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5. My FRG colleague has nothing new to report. He saw Daoudi who is making difficult progress and who seems to have reached the conclusion that except for one or two leading figures, no one wants the Commission to return. Daoudi will discuss with Waldheim whether the continuation of his visit is appropriate or not.

Daoudi encounters as many different opinions as he does interlocutors and of course this is frustrating if you are trying to be constructive.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 33, Iran Update 6/80. Secret; Sensitive. The document was found attached to an undated briefing memorandum from Saunders to Muskie, Christopher, and Newsom entitled “Iran Update, June 13, 1980.”
  2. See Document 294.
  3. A draft of the undated “non-paper” was attached to a May 15 memorandum from Precht to Newsom. It consisted of U.S. “observations” concerning the ability of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to protect U.S. diplomatic and consular interests in Iran. It acknowledged that “present circumstances” did not allow the Swiss to protect the hostages or take possession of U.S. diplomatic or consular property but did expect the Swiss “to exercise such protection and take possession of such property as circumstances may permit.” (Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Swiss Channel) Saunders gave the non-paper to Kreisky, who later reported to the U.S. Ambassador in Austria that Bani-Sadr had never seen it. (Telegram 7776 from Vienna, June 3; Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Iran NODIS Cables June 1980)