[UPDATE 2: A kind reader has pointed me to an Esquire magazine article on this topic:
As I've recently reviewed the number of times over the last 20 or so years that Israel has threatened to bomb Iran, and has been trying hard to get the US to do its dirty work for it by convincing Americans that Iran is a threat, and in light of the fact that none other than Condi Rice has piped up about Iran supposedly not having any legitimacy, it is worth noting a little-reported historical fact that some people would rather be forgotten: In 2003, Iran offered to resolve all outstanding issues with the US, and to even recognize the state of Israel, but the offer was ignored by the US, just as many other significant Iranian compromise proposals and offers of concession have been consistently ignored, and especially by Condi Rice herself.
I therefore recommend reading Michael Teitelman's article on Counterpunch entitled Secrets of the Troika which reviews one particular peace offer by Iran that even include the recognition of ISrael. This partiuclar Iranian peace offer was not only "spurned" by being ignored to death, it was also literally almost erased from history as I'll explain below. However, note that I think Michael is too charitable to the former Secretary of State Condi Rice on one point that I'll also explain further below.
But before that, I would only point out that by now it should be obvious to anyone who has been following Iran-US relations carefully (rather than just credulously scanning hype headlines and believing them) that that the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons is pretextual, just like "WMDs in Iraq" were merely pretexts. The US is simply not really interested in engaging Iran nor in genuiney working towards a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue with Iran, but is instead hyping the sense of threat, imposing unreasonable demands, and using the nuclear issue as a pretext simply in order to justify ever-increasing sanctions and threats against Iran (which ultimately also have the deliberate "blow back" effect of painting US policy-makers into a tighter and tighter self-imposed corner, thus artificially limiting our options of dealing with Iran to two choices: bomb 'em now, or bomb 'em soon.)
In fact the number of Iranian compromise proposals that were ignored to death are too many to go over again on this blog, though I have done so in the past (additional newer examples of such Iranian compromise offers are Ahmadinejad's repeated offer to cease 20% enrichment, and the Turkey/Brazil brokered deal to ship the uranium abroad in exchange for fuel for a medical reactor - both of which were also simply ignored.) Indeed former IAEA head Mohammad ElBaradei has noted that Iran had made compromise proposals that were ignored because the US is really only interested in regime change. Gary Sick noted how the Iranians came to see the US rejection of the 2003 peace offer:
The Iranians that I talked to, some of whom were involved with that process, say that they regard that as sort of par for the course. They make a positive gesture, and it's either ignored or is actually turned against them.
And naturally Iranian authorities, including Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei and Iran's former President Rafsanjani, have also come to the conclusion that the nuclear issue is merely used as a pretext by the US:
"The U.S. is using the nuclear issue as a pretext for regime change," a senior Iranian official said this week. "The issue is a diversion. The U.S. wants to weaken Iran. Even if the nuclear issue was solved, they would want another thing and another thing."
Anyway, back to my points about Michael Teitel's article.
As Micheal recounts it:
In 2003, the Iranian government made a formal diplomatic proposal for direct, comprehensive negotiations about all major issues, grievances, and conflicts that fueled the hostility in their dealings with each other. This was a critical juncture in Iranian-American relations. It offered the possibility of exiting the impasse that began with the overthrow of the Shah and the occupation of the American embassy in 1979...
They sent a formal proposal to negotiate through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. The memorandum laid out Iran’s aims: cessation of American hostility; removal of sanctions; a stable, democratic government in Iraq; Iraqi reparations for the 1980-88 war; access to advanced technology; recognition of Iran’s security interests in the region; suppression of violent anti-Iranian Kurdish organizations which the U.S. itself designated as terrorist.
The memorandum explicitly recognized aims of the United States: transparent guarantees that Iran would not develop nuclear weapons; full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency; Iranian action against al Queda and other terrorist groups; support for political stability and non-sectarian democratic institutions in Iraq; termination of material support to Hamas; pressure on Hamas to stop attacks on Israeli territory; acceptance of the Arab League’s 2002 Beirut Peace Initiative which included recognition of Israel’s right to exist, endorsement of a two state solution and ending hostilities with a peace treaty. (The actual memorandum is available in Treacherous Alliance by Triti Parsi.)
Michael then states what happened to this Iranian proposal:
Amazingly, there was apparently no serious deliberation in the U.S. government about how to respond to Iran. Colin Powell was reportedly dumbfounded by Bush‘s decision to ignore the proposal. His deputy, Lawrence Wilkerson, thought that a positive response was a “no brainer”. In the 2005 Senate confirmation hearing on her appointment as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice testified that she had never seen the memorandum—an astounding admission by the National Security Advisor that she had been shut out by the war troika.
This is where Michael Teitelman gets it wrong because he's being too charitable to Rice. That this "admission" by Rice would be so "astounding" is precisely a reason to suspect it is not true in the first place, as Flynt Leverette wrote in his op-ed in the NY Times. After all, Rice was not "frozen out" of any other part of the NeoCon war project in Iraq - she was in fact quite complicit in it (and as such is also a war criminal.) Rice may have denied seeing the peace offer (as did Elliot Abrams, who is well-known pro-Israel hardline NeoCon and whose wife has been acting nuts over Israel recently) but that's simply because she was most likely just lying to Congress, just like they all lied about WMDs in Iraq. The only way she could not have actually seen it is by putting her hands over her eyes.
In fact Michael seems amazed that none of the recently-published memoires by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld even mention this matter. I haven't read their books but it hardly surpises me because, as I've always been saying, the US (under Bush certainly, and under Obama seems to be the same, since he's got the same people in charge of Iran policy, ie: Dennis Ross) is simply not interested in resolving anything with Iran. What they want is regime change, and will play 'rope-a-dope' as long as necessary to get what they want. And I've been saying, once we accept that, we also have to accept the collorary: that no amount of peace offers or compromises or IAEA inspections or whatever else Iran offers or allows will ever suffice, as long as the regime is still there. In fact as Yousef Butts pointed out, even if Iran gave up its nuclear program entirely, it would still be subject to sanctions.
But in any case, let me get back to the story of the 2003 faxed peace offer. Not only do Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush simply ignore it in their books as reported by Teitelman, there was in fact a deliberate effort by pro-Israeli elements in Washington to promote the idea that no such peace offer in the first place, as claimed by Michael Rubin. Later, he called the whole thing a "conspiracy."
Michael Teitelman concludes his article thus:
So long as this episode is expunged from the American rendition of its Iran narrative, rapprochement is probably not in the cards anytime soon. Those who press for American dominance in the Middle East are free to foster fear and loathing of Iran. Unimpeded by historical reality, they are free to construe Iran’s distrust and recalcitrance in its dealings with the U.S. as paranoid, hostile, and duplicitous rather than as a cautious, prudent response to a powerful, dangerous opponent that not so long ago thwarted its effort to find accommodation with western powers.
And to wrap this up, let me restate my own similar conclusion from an earlier post:
The history of this [US-Iran nuclear] dispute has shown without any question whatsoever that:
1- The US is not interested in any diplomatic solution, and has actively undermined potentially workable diplomatic solutions...
2- Repeated efforts by Iran to resolve this issue diplomatically, including by suspension of enrichment, were rejected off-hand, and will probably continue to be rejected in a similar manner, since...
3- No amount of capitulations by the Iranians will be satisfactory, and will only be followed by greater demands, because...
4- The nuclear enrichment issue is not the true bone of contention; it is merely a convenient pretext for another conflict which [is] ...
5- Ultimately a strategic struggle between Israel and Iran in which Israel sees a potential US-Iran rapprochement as a threat to its regional ambitions/hegemony/relationship with the US. That's what the real conflict is about, not nuclear enrichment per se which is just a pretext and form of misdirection.