It is often asserted that the outgoing Bush Administration "refused to talk to Iran," and that it "failed to use the instruments of diplomacy" to alter Iran's behavior. Actually, Bush officials at the rank of Ambassador or above, met with Iranian counterparts directly at least twenty-eight times during the eight years of the Administration, and there were many additional meetings conducted by European officials in close coordination with the United States. I compiled a list of these meetings, first published in the American Thinker. Here is the list:
Direct and Indirect
Bush Administration Contacts with Iran
including more than 28 Separate Meetings with American officials of Ambassadorial Rank
(Direct U.S.-Iran meetings shown in bold below)
November 2001 through December 2002, more than sixteen meetings were held in Geneva and Paris (at least one every month except January 2002) between Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker, (who was also serving as the interim envoy to Afghanistan) and senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials.
November-December 2001, Special Afghanistan Envoy James Dobbins negotiated with Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Bonn, leading to the Bonn Agreement on Afghanistan.
January 21-22, 2002, Special Afghanistan Envoy James Dobbins discussed the Karina-A incident with a senior Iranian diplomat at the Tokyo donors conference for Afghanistan.
March 30 2002, Special Afghanistan Envoy James Dobbins discussed the future of the Afghan National Army with an Iranian general, in full uniform, who had been the commander of their security assistance efforts for the Northern Alliance throughout the war.
January 2003, acting U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (and NSC Senior Director) Zalmay Khalilzad and Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (soon to become UN ambassador) assume control over the negotiations; they meet in Paris.
March 16, 2003, Khalilzad and Crocker hold second meeting with Zarif in Geneva
March 21, 2003 Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi denied that Zarif and Khalilzad met
April 2003, Khalilzad and Crocker hold third meeting with Zarif in Geneva
May 3, 2003, Khalilzad and Crocker hold fourth meeting with Zarif in Geneva
May 4, 2003 Tim Guldimann, the Swiss Ambassador to Iran, faxes to the State Department what he depicts as an Iranian "Roadmap" for a comprehensive settlement of issues with the U.S. (called by some a "Grand Bargain")
October 21, 2003: Acting on the basis of an understanding with the United States, German Foreign Joschka Fischer, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin met with top Iranian officials in Teheran.
November 17, 2003 Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "I think that my three colleagues, the EU Three, played a very, very helpful role in going to Tehran…and coming back with a very, very positive and productive result."
December 2003: Further talks between Iran and the European Union.
November 15, 2004 agreement signed by the Governments of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Islamic Republic of Iran, in Paris.
November 21, 2004 Secretary of State Powell sat near Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi at a multilateral meeting on Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, but the two did not engage directly.
November 24, 2004: Secretary of State Colin Powell said "The United States has been supportive of the Europeans' efforts."
December 13, 2004 – Expanded talks between Iran and EU begin, with American support.
January 7, 2005 Talks between Russia and Iran on the Moscow proposal end without a result with the parties promising to resume talks in February
January 2005 Europe and Iran begin trade talks.
March 11, 2005: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that the United States will "make an effort to actively support the EU-3's negotiations with the Iranians" and lift a decade-long block on Iran's membership of the World Trade Organization, and end objections to Tehran obtaining parts for commercial planes.
January 12, 2006 EU3 call off nuclear talks with Iran and say Tehran should be referred to UN Security Council.
May 31, 2006 In a major policy shift, Secretary Rice says the U.S. is willing to join the multilateral talks with Iran if Tehran verifiably suspends its nuclear enrichment program. The U.S. also gives assent to a package of carrots and sticks Solana will describe to the Iranians.
May 31, 2006 U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton was instructed to deliver a message to Iranian UN ambassador that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was willing to meet with Iranian officials if the government suspended uranium enrichment. Bolton said he called Iran's ambassador, Javad Zarif to set up a meeting, but Zarif told him he was instructed by Iran not to meet. Bolton's chief of staff donned sunglasses and a trench coat and dropped off a letter at the mission so each side could say they fulfilled their duties. attempted to deliver a letter
June 5-6, 2006 On behalf of the five permanent members of the Security Council, Javier Solana flew to Tehran to convey to Iran a package of incentives if Iran suspends its uranium enrichment, and specific actions that might be taken if Iran does not accept the package.
July 11, 2006 A meeting between Ali Larijani, Javier Solana and the foreign ministers of the P5 plus Germany in Brussels ended with no result.
September 9, 2006 Contacts between Javier Solana and Ali Larijani resumed.
October 4, 2006: EU foreign policy chief Solana says four months of intensive talks have brought no agreement on suspension of Iran's sensitive nuclear activities, and he adds that the dialogue cannot continue indefinitely.
February 9, 2007 Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani meets with IAEA Chief Mohammad El Baradei
March 8, 2007 Rice's Senior Adviser on Iraq, David Satterfield, affirms U.S. interest in discussions with Iran about the situation in Iraq
March 10, 2007 - The US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, holds a meeting with an Iranian team at a conference of Iraq's neighbors in Baghdad.
April 25, 2007 EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and Iran's top negotiator Ali Larijani held talks in Ankara.
May 4, 2007 Secretary of State Rice sought a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki during a multilateral conference on Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, but was snubbed. She said, "I would have taken that opportunity...You can ask him why he didn't make an effort. Look, I'm not given to chasing anyone." A brief meeting did take place between the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.
May 28, 2007 - The US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and Iranian Ambassdor to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi meet in Baghdad
May 31, 2007 The EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani in Spain.
June 22, 2007 Ali Larjani and Javier Solana met again in Geneva
July 24, 2007 The US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Kazemi Qomi, held a second round of talks in Baghdad
August 6, 2007 The US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Kazemi Qomi held a third round of talks in Baghdad
August 20-21, 2007 extensive talks in Tehran between Iran and the UN's nuclear agency,
October 7, 2007. The top US military commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, accused Iran's ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qomi of belonging to the Quds force, which he accused of "lethal involvement and activities" in Iraq, "providing the weapons, the training, the funding and in some cases the direction for operations" against U.S. and Iraqi forces.
October 16, 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad at a summit meeting of five Caspian Sea nations in Iran.
October 23, 2007 Solana and the new Iranian nuclear negotiator met in Rome
November 20, 2007 The U.S. and Iran agree to fourth round of Crocker/Qomi talks
November 30, 2007 Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili met with Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, in London
January 11-12, 2008 ElBaradei visited Iran and met Iran's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
January 27, 2008 U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Zalmay Khalilzad attends multilateral meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Mojtaba Samare Hashemi, a top advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Davos, Switzerland. State Department says it was "unauthorized."
May 7, 2008 Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said there was no point in having talks with Washington as long as US forces continued attacking Shiite militias in Baghdad and therefore a fourth round of talks between the United States and Iran over the security situation in Iraq is unlikely to go ahead.
June 14, 2008 Secretary of State Rice signed a letter to Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, listing incentives and concessions to which the U.S. would agree if Iran suspends its nuclear enrichment program. Javier Solana, representing the EU, travelled to Iran with representatives from the E3 (France, Germany and the UK) and from China and Russia to present Iran the new offer for negotiations.
July 19, 2008 Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns accompanied Solana and representatives of the E3+3 to meet with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Geneva