One of the memes of supporters of the P5+1 deal with Iran is the United States rebuffed a peace offering by Iran in 2003, and instead went forward with sanctions that ultimately failed. Glenn Kessler, fact checker of the Washington Post, however, disagrees, assigning the claim three Pinocchios, which according to his scale, means it contains "significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions."
Spurring Kessler to investigate the claim was a statement by Secretary of State Kerry in an interview on ABC’s This Week:
In 2003, Iran made an offer to the Bush administration that they would, in fact, do major things with respect to their [nuclear] program, they had 164 centrifuges. Nobody took that [deal]– nothing has happened.
Kessler discussed a deal outline faxed to the US - which many sources claim was the result of freelancing by a Swiss diplomat hoping to be the one to make peace between Iran and the United States, without the knowledge/agreement of either the US or Iran - as well as the failed talks between Iran and Europe. He concludes:
It’s quite possible the Bush administration acted too quickly in rejecting the efforts of the Swiss ambassador, though it is not surprising. After all, at the very moment the fax arrived, the United States was already engaged in senior-level talks with Iranian officials, so such an expansive third-party approach may have seemed out of left field.
But Kerry goes too far when he describes this as “an offer to the Bush administration that they would, in fact, do major things with respect to their program.” It was not an offer, but a vague listing of U.S. aims and Iranian aims to start off a diplomatic process — which came from the Swiss, not even from Iran. There were no actual specifics concerning the nuclear program; there is notably no mention of halting Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The actual negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, led by the Europeans, demonstrate how difficult it would be reach an agreement that might have halted Iran’s nuclear program — especially if Rouhani was not exaggerating when he claimed that Iran used the talks as a cover to make major advances.