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Cablegate: Swiss to Baker Commission: Usg Should No Longer

VZCZCXRO9268
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHSW #2115/01 3311548
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 271548Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY BERN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3455
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

2006-11-27 15:48:00 06BERN2115 Embassy Bern CONFIDENTIAL 06BERN2115 VZCZCXRO9268\
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK\
DE RUEHSW #2115/01 3311548\
ZNY CCCCC ZZH\
O 271548Z NOV 06\
FM AMEMBASSY BERN\
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3455\
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BERN 002115 \
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SIPDIS \
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SIPDIS \
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SECSTATE FOR NEA/I, EUR, EUR/AGS \
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/27/2016 \
TAGS: PREL KNNP PTER ETTC IR IZ SZ
SUBJECT: SWISS TO BAKER COMMISSION: USG SHOULD NO LONGER \
"OUT-SOURCE" TO THE EU-3 OUR IRAN POLICY \
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Classified By: Ambassador Peter Coneway, Reasons 1.4 b/d \
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1.(C) Summary: Swiss State Secretary Michael Ambuehl met \
with Baker Commission co-chairman James Baker on November 21 \
in Houston to share Swiss views on Iran. In a briefing for \
Ambassador Coneway on November 27, Ambuehl reported that he \
told former-Secretary Baker that direct U.S.-Iranian talks \
would be necessary to achieve any progress on the Iranian \
nuclear question. The USG, Ambuehl quipped, should no longer \
"out-source" foreign policy to the EU-3, but meet bilaterally \
with Iran, lay the framework for broad dialogue, and then \
bring in multilateral partners. The Swiss are convinced Iran \
is determined to approach the threshold of nuclear-weapons \
status, but it may be possible to deter Iran from making the \
leap to becoming a full nuclear state. As Swiss officials \
told NEA PDAS Jeffrey in Washington last week, there have \
been back-channel messages to the Swiss indicating that \
Tehran desires to restore relations with the international \
community. Switzerland remains prepared to bring the two \
sides together at either the official, unofficial, or proxy \
level. End summary. \
\
2.(C) State Secretary Ambuehl flew from Switzerland to \
Houston on November 21 to meet with James Baker in advance of \
the upcoming release of the Baker Commission report. Upon \
his return to Bern, Ambuehl invited Ambassador Coneway, DCM \
and Poloff for a briefing on his meeting. DFA Iran expert \
and Deputy Director for Human Security & Peace Support, \
Guillaume Scheurer, who traveled to Houston and thereafter to \
Washington to brief NEA PDAS Jeffrey, joined the meeting, as \
did DFA Deputy Americas chief Urs Hammer. (NB: DFA Deputy \
Disarmament head Jean-Daniel Praz and Swiss Embassy Political \
Counselor Ralf Hechner also accompanied Ambuehl to Houston). \
\
3.(C) Ambuehl told the Ambassador that he had three \
objectives in meeting with Baker: First, to offer him the \
Swiss assessment of the situation in Iran; second, to convey \
Swiss ideas on how to restart talks on Iran's nuclear \
program, and; third, to offer Switzerland's good offices in \
potential talks. Ambuehl described Baker as interested and \
in a listening-mode. Baker, he said, peppered the Swiss \
delegation with questions, but gave little indication of his \
personal views on how to proceed, except to describe his \
mandate as first and foremost Iraq, then Iran. \
\
---------------------- \
Gauging Iran's motives \
---------------------- \
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4.(C) Swiss officials are sure Iran seeks to reach the \
threshold of nuclear-weapons status, but are unsure how the \
Iranians define the threshold, or whether it might be short \
of actual possession of a device, Ambuehl said. They are \
likewise convinced that Iran wants to negotiate and is ready \
to make concessions -- but only at the conclusion of \
negotiations, not as a pre-condition. Finally, Iran desires \
access to Western technology, especially U.S. technology, \
rather than Russian technology, for its civil nuclear program. \
\
5.(C) Asked to comment on Iran's machinations in Iraq, \
Ambuehl said it would be a mistake to believe Tehran is \
dissatisfied with the status quo. While the Iranians fear a \
catastrophe in Iraq, they have no interest in helping the \
United States succeed. The current state of Iraqi civil \
unrest appeals to Iran. He surmised that Iran would prefer \
to sit down multilaterally on Iraq, rather than in bilateral \
discussions with the United States. That said, Ambuehl \
interjected, Iran needs a settlement with the West for their \
own interests; they needs things that we can offer them: \
recognition by the United States, regional influence, \
recognition as a major power, and better relations with the \
international community. "We have to buy them," Ambuehl \
asserted. \
\
------------------------------- \
What the Swiss would have us do \
------------------------------- \
\
6.(C) As to how the Swiss would proceed, were they in the \
position of the United States or EU-3, Ambuehl offered that a \
necessary first step would be direct U.S.-Iranian talks. \
These talks could be at any level the USG desired: secret, \
shuttle diplomacy, proxy -- whatever. Ambuehl underscored \
his conviction that the United States should be in the \
drivers seat; the USG should no longer "out-source foreign \
policy" to the EU-3. Direct talks, Ambuehl said, should \
start out broad and outline a framework for a dialogue, one \
that includes incentives for Iran, as well as step-by-step \
mechanisms for advancement and provisions for strict \
supervision. Once the framework is set, the USG could \
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BERN 00002115 002 OF 002 \
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multilateralize the talks to the level of the P5-plus-one. \
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7.(C) Ambuehl asserted that the USG should not demand \
suspension as a pre-condition to talks. Granting that the \
Iranian leadership is untrustworthy, Ambuehl nonetheless \
insisted that one could not expect a card player to lay down \
his best card prior to the game. Ambassador Coneway \
countered that suspension was not necessarily a permanent \
move and the Iranians needed to show good faith through \
suspension prior to negotiations. Ambuehl conceded the \
point, but suggested that a certain amount of talking might \
be necessary to determine a negotiating partner's intentions. \
\
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Switzerland's role? \
------------------- \
\
8.(C) Ambuehl reiterated Switzerland's readiness to play an \
intermediary role between the United States and Iran -- a \
message he conveyed to NEA PDAS James Jeffrey, and one which \
Swiss Ambassador to Tehran, Philippe Welti, planned to convey \
during biannual consultations in Washington next month. \
Switzerland, Ambuehl said, would host any type of meeting the \
USG requested -- official, unofficial, or proxy. Whoever we \
proposed to represent the USG side, the Swiss would work to \
match with an equivalent delegation from the Iranian side. \
Ambuehl said that Ambassador Welti had recently been \
approached by the brother of former Iranian President \
Rafsanjani about opening unofficial channels to the USG. It \
remained unclear whether Rafsanjani's approach was made in \
coordination with, or opposition to, Ayatollah al-Khamanei \
and President Ahmadinejad. The Swiss Embassy in Tehran \
(which includes the U.S. Interest Section) was working to \
determine the answer to this question. Ambuehl acknowledged \
that any credible Iranian representative would need a mandate \
from both Khamanei and Ahmadinejad. \
\
9.(C) Ambassador Coneway thanked Ambuehl for the briefing and \
expressed hope that Switzerland's role would be one with \
which we and our EU partners could agree. \
\
------- \
Comment \
------- \
\
10.(C) Past Swiss offers to mediate with Iran have prompted \
unenthusiastic replies in both Washington and EU capitals. \
Clearly Ambuehl views the Baker Commission report as an \
avenue to promote his proposals once more. Switzerland \
serves USG interests well as Protecting Power in Tehran. \
However, we defer to the Department on how useful the Swiss \
contribution could be in our broader policy with Iran. \
CONEWAY \

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