Secret U.S. Overture to Iran in 1999 Broke Down Over Terrorism Allegations
U.S. Also Misunderstood Iran’s Leadership Dynamics in Attempting Exclusive Contact with President Khatami
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Washington, DC, May 30, 2010 – A highly confidential U.S. overture to Iran in summer 1999 foundered because the intelligence community and FBI believed members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) had a role in the infamous Khobar Towers bombing of June 1996, and because U.S. officials overestimated the Iranian president’s ability to manage the sensitive matter of U.S. relations within Iran’s power structure, according to newly declassified documents.
The new documents, including President Bill Clinton’s message to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Tehran’s response, highlight the complexities facing current U.S. policy-makers in their ongoing approaches to the Islamic Republic, particularly the challenge of balancing closer ties to Tehran with concerns over allegations of past support for terrorist groups. Those concerns led the Clinton administration — notwithstanding the president’s personal interest in a rapprochement with Tehran — to order updated contingency plans for military strikes against Iranian targets.
The National Security Archive received the previously Top Secret correspondence from the William J. Clinton Library in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
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