Iran would have accepted Beirut Declaration

Did Iran offer recognition of Israel according to the Beirut Declaration in 2003? Some top experts on Iran at no less an establishment institution as Johns Hopkins' SAIS think so:
WASHINGTON, May 24 (IPS) - Iran offered in 2003 to accept peace with Israel and to cut off material assistance to Palestinian armed groups and pressure them to halt terrorist attacks within Israel's 1967 borders, according to the secret Iranian proposal to the United States.

The two-page proposal for a broad Iran-U.S. agreement covering all the issues separating the two countries, a copy of which was obtained by IPS, was conveyed to the United States in late April or early May 2003. Trita Parsi, a specialist on Iranian foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies who provided the document to IPS, says he got it from an Iranian official earlier this year but is not at liberty to reveal the source.

The two-page document contradicts the official line of the George W. Bush administration that Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel and the sponsorship of terrorism in the region.

Parsi says the document is a summary of an even more detailed Iranian negotiating proposal which he learned about in 2003 from the U.S. intermediary who carried it to the State Department on behalf of the Swiss Embassy in late April or early May 2003. The intermediary has not yet agreed to be identified, according to Parsi.

The Iranian negotiating proposal indicated clearly that Iran was prepared to give up its role as a supporter of armed groups in the region in return for a larger bargain with the United States. What the Iranians wanted in return, as suggested by the document itself as well as expert observers of Iranian policy, was an end to U.S. hostility and recognition of Iran as a legitimate power in the region.

Before the 2003 proposal, Iran had attacked Arab governments which had supported the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The negotiating document, however, offered "acceptance of the Arab League Beirut declaration", which it also referred to as the "Saudi initiative, two-states approach."
The Beirut Declaration, which when you think about it was a really landmark proposal from the Arab League, was always ignored by Israel. Why? Because Israel wants to annex part of the West Bank, against all UN resolutions and principles of international law. And this is why we risk another war in the Middle East rather than a solution to the crisis. I'm sure the Iranian proposal probably included other demand, and perhaps negotiations would have led nowhere, but the point was that they were ready to talk before the recent election brought back that nutcase Ahmedinejad. The article makes for good reading to put things in perspective -- the Iran regime may be nasty, but it is neither automatically belligerent nor unwilling to negotiate on something as fundamental as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process according to the generous terms of the Beirut Declaration. If there is no partner for peace, it's on the Israeli side.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.