227. Message From the U.S. Government to Iranian President Bani-Sadr1

1. We would appreciate it if Ambassador Lang could see Bani-Sadr to make the following points:

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—We have noted Bani-Sadr’s reaction to our message of March 25 [24]2 which provided him with our assessment of the urgency and seriousness of the situation and the need to take effective steps to transfer the hostages to government control by Monday, March 31. The time remaining is very short.

—We welcome Bani-Sadr’s renewed assurance through Kaiser that the hostages will be transfered to government control.3 It is important that this happen without delay. In our analysis, political conditions in Iran and the United States will make more difficult—not easier—transfer at a later date.

—In a separate message, we summarized the changed reaction of U.S. political leaders and the public to the crisis with Iran.4 This negative attitude can be expected to become more intense in the weeks ahead if there are no positive developments

—With reference to Bani-Sadr’s remark to Kaiser, we believe that the United States has, in fact, demonstrated good will towards Iran and Bani-Sadr. The establishment of the UN Commission is the most significant of such signs. In addition, during the past two months we have refrained from harsh statements against Iran and have tried to take into account Bani-Sadr’s position. We tried unsuccessfully to have the Shah remain in Panama. On March 27, Secretary Vance agreed publicly to the preparation and publication of a historical white paper on the relations between Iran and the United States.5

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—We remain willing to undertake a series of reciprocal steps and were interested in President Bani-Sadr’s remark on American television that the hostages could be released earlier than the convening of parliament under the right conditions and a “change in the U.S. attitude.” We would welcome any specific ideas in this regard.

—We have to point out to the President that the United States has scrupulously maintained its responsibilities at every step of the scenario. We are awaiting Iran’s readiness to take the steps that lie in its area of responsibility, specifically the transfer of the hostages. If done promptly, transfer of the hostages could open the way, we believe, to a rapid solution to the crisis. End text.

2. We hope the message can be delivered as early as possible on Sunday.6 If it is not possible to reach Bani-Sadr until after the meeting of the Revolutionary Council, the message should not be delivered.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Box 36, Subject File, Iran Cables and Press 3/19/80–3/31/80. Secret. Drafted by Precht. Cleared by Jordan, Saunders, and Vance. Transmitted in a cable to Lang. According to the April 1 White House discussion, Bani-Sadr read parts of this letter during his April 1 speech. See footnote 3, Document 233.
  2. See Document 220.
  3. See Document 225.
  4. See Document 223. Public opinion polls in the United States indicated a “sharp decline” in public approval of Carter’s handling of the crisis (from 63 percent to 49 percent), and rising impatience with the situation. (Telegram 82630 to all diplomatic and consular posts, March 28; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800162–0077)
  5. During his March 27 appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Vance approved a proposal by ranking Committee Members, Senators Church and Javits, that the Committee issue a white paper on U.S.-Iranian relations. (Bernard Gwertzman, “Vance Backs Report on U.S. Ties to Shah,” New York Times, March 28, 1980, p. A1)
  6. March 30.