209. Draft Letter From the White House Chief of Staff (Jordan) to Iranian President Bani-Sadr1

Dear Mr. President:

I am taking the liberty of sending you this personal and private message through our mutual friend, Mr. Hector Villalon. The only copy of this letter is in the possession of President Carter.

Because we have reached a critical point in the process of trying to peacefully resolve the differences which face our countries, I thought it was important that I convey my thoughts to you personally and in complete frankness. I would welcome your frank reaction to these suggestions.

I was pleased to receive your message of March 10th that the 50 American hostages would be transferred to the custody of the Iranian government within fifteen days.2 I conveyed this message to President Carter, and he considered it an encouraging development.

I believe that we share a single objective: to put an end to the present crisis and to build a new relationship with your country and government based on equality and mutual respect. But quite frankly, the possibility of having such a relationship in the future will not be possible unless all our hostages (countrymen being held in Iran) are returned safely to our country at an early date.

From the outset, President Carter has pursued a policy of patience and restraint. He did this not only to insure the safe ultimate release of our hostages, but also to create an atmosphere after their release which would allow our respective governments to build a new relationship which recognizes the new realities created by the Iranian revolution. This continues to be our objective and our hope.

However, the atmosphere of restraint created and sustained by President Carter [cannot last forever] [is under heavy mounting criticism]. A growing number of political figures and journalists who have supported President Carter’s policy of restraint are now advocating extreme measures [as a result of the Commission’s departure from Tehran]. Despite this growing frustration, President Carter has not abandoned his policy of restraint. As soon as we learned of the Commis[Page 549]sion’s decision to leave Iran, President Carter called upon the American people and the Congress to be patient.3 He also conveyed to the UN Commission through Secretary-General Waldheim and Secretary Vance his desire that the Commission not abandon their work and be prepared to return to Tehran under the proper circumstances.

We believe that the process negotiated by Misters Villalon and Bourguet represents an honorable way to resolve our problems. We are prepared to renew our commitment to that process, but must have evidence of your government’s willingness and ability to [abide by that process] [carry out their commitments and abide strictly by that process.] The transfer of the hostages to the custody of the government would be4 important evidence of Iranian goodwill.

After we resolve the immediate problems, I can assure you that our government will adopt a reasonable attitude in resolving our numerous bilateral problems. Misters Bourguet and Villalon have recommended the creation of a joint US-Iranian Commission as the instrument for dealing with these bilateral issues. We would be receptive to this approach and could see the Commission as the means for developing our future relationship.

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Finally, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to communicate directly with you. We are aware of and appreciate your personal efforts to resolve this crisis in a manner that is fair and honorable to both countries. It is my judgment that time is working against us. [Time is of the essence.]

I look forward to meeting you someday when the problems are sat[isfied].


Hamilton Jordan Chief-of-Staff to the President


Alternate Ending to Draft Letter5

Beyond the present problems, I can assure you that our government will adopt a reasonable attitude in resolving the numerous bilateral issues that we face.

Finally, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to communicate directly with you. Please know that we will do everything possible to bring an early and honorable conclusion to the present crisis. I hope that you will accept my frank analysis that time is working against us.

I hope to have the honor of meeting you some day.


Hamilton Jordan Chief-of-Staff to the President
  1. Source: Carter Library, Office of the Chief of Staff, Jordan’s Confidential Files, Box 34, Iran 3/80. Confidential. The editor transcribed the text from the handwritten original. Bracketed material represents Jordan’s drafting alternatives. All brackets, except the last, are in the original. This letter is partially quoted in Jordan’s memoir. (Jordan, Crisis, p. 195) No final signed copy of this letter or indication it was sent has been found.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 207.
  3. For the March 10 White House statement, see Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, Book I, p. 455.
  4. Jordan wrote and struck out: “an appropriate gesture” here.
  5. No classification marking.