The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2021 47 less hypocrites. First, they create a crisis. Then they prolong it and use it to solidify their power. Now that they’re in control, they say that it has gone on too long, and they want to end it. Only 10 months ago Khomeini forbade Iranian officials from even meeting Americans.” Ritzel told Beheshti, “I will send your message to our ambassador in Washington. I will let you know as soon as I have an answer.” “Please work through Dr. Sadeq,” Beheshti said. “The Americans will, of course, be suspicious. You can tell them they will have confirmation we are serious. They should listen to the Imam’s sermon, not this Friday but the one after. He will state the same conditions. They should have no doubt this approach comes directly from him.” Nilufar’s report reached Washington only a few hours behind that of the German ambassador. It thus came as no surprise when the German ambassador in Washington asked for an urgent meeting with the Secretary. After telling him, his deputy and Porter about Ritzel’s meeting with Beheshti and the Iranian conditions, the ambassador added, “I know Ritzel. He’s been in Iran since before the revolution. He gets along well with the new government, and they obviously trust him to deliver their mes- sage. This sounds serious.” The Secretary answered carefully, “Mr. Ambassador, we are grateful for your government’s efforts and, in particular, for those of your colleague in Tehran. We have been seeking a viable chan- nel to Khomeini and his people for months. “Please ask your colleague in Tehran to tell the Iranians we are seriously studying their conditions. Of course, we will want to hear the confirmation he describes. Please tell him also that Tehran and Washington, August 1980 In late August, just a month after the Shah’s death in Egypt, Beheshti asked Nilufar to arrange an urgent meeting with German Ambassador Gerhard Ritzel. “I’d like you to interpret. Doctor Sadeq Tabataba’i will join us. His wife is the sister of Kho- meini’s son Ahmad. He knows the ambassador quite well. It will be just the four of us. We don’t need a notetaker.” A day later, Ritzel and Tabataba’i came to Beheshti’s office. Although Beheshti’s German was fluent, he insisted on using Persian. With Nilufar interpreting, Beheshti told Ritzel: “The Imam has decided it is time to end the matter of the American hostages. He has instructed me to make the arrangements. I am asking you to take a message to the Americans that we are ready to settle based on four points: unfreeze Iranian funds; return the Shah’s assets to Iran; pledge noninterference in Iran’s internal affairs; and apologize for past actions against Iran.” Ritzel thought for a minute before replying, “Sir, of course my government is ready to do anything to help resolve this prob- lem. I will informmy counterpart in Washington to speak to the Americans. In my view, the last demand—an apology—will be difficult for them.” “So be it. We can waive the apology at the end. It is the Imam’s opinion that this crisis has gone on too long and is distracting us from the important work of building our new Islamic Republic,” Beheshti said, turning toward Tabataba’i. “Doctor Sadeq here— at the direct request of the Imam—has full power to represent our government in any talks with American officials to work out arrangements. You know him well, and he has my authorization to meet with you as necessary.” Nilufar said to herself, “These akhunds are amazing. Shame- John Limbert is a retired Foreign Service officer, an academic and an author. During a 34-year diplomatic career, he served mostly in the Middle East and Islamic Africa (including two tours in Iraq), was ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, and, in retire- ment, was brought back to serve as the first deputy assistant secretary of State for Iranian affairs. Beginning in 1964, he worked in Iran as a university and high school teacher, and later was among the last American diplomats to serve in Iran, where he was held hostage from 1979 to 1981. He has authored numerous books and articles on Middle Eastern subjects. He and his wife, the former Parvaneh Tabibzadeh, reside in Long Island City, Queens, New York. Marc Grossman is a vice chair of The Cohen Group. Ambassador Grossman served as a Foreign Service officer from 1976 to 2005, retiring as the under secretary of State for political affairs. He had previously served as Director General of the Foreign Service, assistant secre- tary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, and U.S. ambas- sador to Turkey. Amb. Grossman was recalled to the State Department from 2011 to 2012 to be the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is chairman of the board of the Senior Living Founda- tion of the Foreign Service and serves as a trustee of the GermanMar- shall Fund of the United States and the University of California, Santa Barbara Foundation. He is also on the board of the C&O Canal Trust.