Report: US, Iran huddled prior to Iraq War

Report: US, Iran huddled prior to Iraq War
© Getty

The United States and Iran held confidential talks about the future of Iraq prior to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, according to a new book by a top Bush administration diplomat.

Among the topics at the talks, Iran agreed not to fire at U.S. aircraft flying over Iran, and the United States wanted Iran to encourage Shiites to participate in forming a new government in Iraq, according to a report in The New York Times about the book.

“We wanted a commitment that Iran would not fire on U.S. aircraft if they accidentally flew over Iranian territory,” Zalmay Khalilzad, a former ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan and the United Nations, wrote, according to the Times.

Then-Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Javad Zarif agreed, he wrote.

“We also hoped Iran would encourage Iraqi Shiites to participate constructively in establishing a new government in Iraq,” he added.

Khalilzad’s book, “The Envoy,” is set to be published this month.

The book’s release comes at a time when critics are chastising President Obama’s engagement with Iran and the recently enacted nuclear agreement with Tehran. Zharif is now the Iranian foreign minister and a principal figure in the nuclear deal.

According to the book, Khalilzad wanted to see if the United States could get Iran to cooperate prior to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq and got permission from the White House to meet with Zarif.

Khalilzad told Zarif that the Bush administration wanted to establish a democratic government in Baghdad. But Zarif wanted Iraq to be governed by leaders who had been exiled under Saddam Hussein.

The talks ended in May 2003, when the Bush administration accused Iran of harboring al Qaeda leaders blamed for a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia that killed eight Americans.

In his book, Khalilzad argues that continuing the talks could have shaped Iran’s behavior.

“I am convinced that if we had combined diplomatic engagement with forcible actions, we could have shaped Iran’s conduct,” he wrote, according to the Times.