230. Paper Prepared by the Swiss Ambassador to Iran (Lang)1

Meeting with Bani-Sadr

1. In view of the fact that my meeting took place with almost a two hour delay, I will convey the general climate in my next cable.2 I want you to know that Bani-Sadr appeared to me to be at the end of his rope, he could hardly get his words out, was confused and imprecise. This forced me to ask him to repeat his words several times in a manner which was almost unpleasant.

2. Because of the capital importance of his message I took his words down as he was saying them.

3. Bani-Sadr, who had just left a meeting of the Revolutionary Council, told me the following:

The Council decided that we can ask for a change in the situation of the hostages in order to give the Americans more confidence than is really needed provided that they (the US) waits for Parliament to take the decision to release the hostages, which will take a while. Bani-Sadr tells me the Imam agrees, the students agree, the students have just left my office.

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4. Bani-Sadr is mixing up what occurred today and what occurred a few days ago and tells me that he spoke to the Imam’s son who talked to his father and who also saw the students and convinced them.

5. Bani-Sadr states that two proposals have been worked out and that the students are prepared to accept them:

(1) The Council proposes to Bani-Sadr that he requests that the students place the hostages under control of the state. Comment: V et Cheron had forewarned me against joint control of the condominium (sic) kind (government, revolutionary council and students) therefore I asked Bani-Sadr to clarify if this was under sole control of the state excluding any other organization or parallel power. Bani-Sadr replied that yes this would be under the sole control of the state.

(2) Second proposal: the hostages would remain in the custody of the students, I stress “in the custody of”, who would pledge to the state that they would completely improve their situation providing all of them with excellent and adequate housing conditions with total freedom of action within the compound and periodic visits of the Red Lion and Sun. The second proposal is designed to give the hostages all guarantees as to their safety and these guarantees would be checked periodically by the government.

6. I was so flabbergasted by the second proposal that I asked Bani-Sadr to repeat it three times and each time I told him that I could not understand the difference between the two proposals since safety, care, and comfort are in fact included in the first proposal since the hostages would be under the control of the government in whom the other side has full confidence. I had a hard time getting Bani-Sadr to speak clearly on this because of his condition of extreme fatigue. What I got out of him follows: he confessed that he is deeply perplexed as to the safety of the hostages during their transfer to governmental control. He worries over provocations and attempts against them particularly on the part of those he calls the “Russians”. I am astonished and asked for clarifications, are there Russians in the compound? He says yes there are. I assume he is alluding to a group close to Tudeh.

7. V advised me to be extremely firm. I therefore spoke accordingly and stressed to Bani-Sadr the seriousness of the situation on the other side. I stressed that I had no mandate from anyone nor did I have any power but because of my dealings with my government and with my colleague in Washington I understood the present situation in the United States and the problem with which the President would be faced and I thought therefore that only a radical change and not simply psychological measures could be taken up by the other side. By radical change one must understand a total and final break of any contact between the hostages and their keepers the latter being replaced once and for all by representatives of the legitimate power that is to say of [Page 607]the Iran Government. I pursued this same idea three times in different terms and until the end of our meeting.

8. I asked Bani-Sadr when a choice would be made between these proposals, meaning in effect become specific and be implemented and Bani-Sadr said that will happen tomorrow.

9. I asked Bani-Sadr what was the immediate followup on his part and he replied that while awaiting the reaction of the other side he is going to the Imam to get him to choose a solution. If the Imam agrees with the two solutions and tells me to make a choice, well then I therefore will have to analyze myself Bani-Sadr, the psychology of our people in tactical terms and I would choose two stages. The first stage would be the second solution to be followed after a certain interval by the first solution.

I told him one more time that this analysis was very good as far as it went but that a capital element was lacking: to know how the other side would take this.

10. Following V’s advice who insisted strongly that he wanted a press statement I asked Bani-Sadr if he was going to make a statement to the press. I admit that V had showed me the advantages of it but what I had just heard caused me to think that a press statement would be counterproductive. I therefore did not object when Bani-Sadr told me that he would not speak to the press now but only as soon as a solution had been chosen. Either the Imam or Bani-Sadr himself would issue a public statement.

11. During the last ten minutes of our conversation which were extremely difficult because Bani-Sadr could barely get a word out—a condition he acknowledged himself—Sandjabi et Molavi came in and sat down at the table. I took advantage of this to repeat firmly and clearly what I believed to be the kind of solution the other side was expecting and I stressed the determination to see the hostages placed henceforth under the direct and sole control of the legitimate government of Iran.

12. Logistically speaking I don’t know how President Carter will reply. I can reach Bani-Sadr at his office until midnight, after that time I have his private number but considering the condition he is in I wonder if a direct communication or a communication through B or V would not be preferable.

  1. Source: Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Swiss Channel. No classification marking.
  2. According to the March 31 paper prepared by Lang, Lang arrived at the Foreign Ministry at 8:25 p.m. Tehran time (11:55 a.m. EST). (Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Swiss Channel)