Guest Note by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett: Obama – Stop Covert Activities Against Iran and Dump Bush’s Policy of Playing the Sunni-Shi’a “Card”

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iran_ethnic_map
This is a guest note by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett. Flynt directs the New America Foundation/Iran Project and is a former Senior Director of Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council. Hillary is chairman of Stratega, a political risk consultancy. They are co-publishers of the new blog, The Race for Iran.
Sunday’s suicide bomb attack in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province, in which five senior officers of the Revolutionary Guard and at least 30 other people were killed, marks a significant escalation in an ongoing Sunni Islamist terror campaign directed against the Islamic Republic. We do not believe that Sunday’s attack and the ongoing campaign of terrorist violence represents a fundamental threat to the Islamic Republic’s basic political stability. However, we do believe the attack will exacerbate Iranian threat perceptions about its regional neighbors and the United States at a delicate point in the diplomatic process launched at the October 1 Geneva meeting between senior Iranian officials and representatives of the P-5+1.
The attacks appear to have been carried out by Jundallah (Arabic for “soldiers of God”), which is also known as the People’s Resistance Movement of Iran. Jundallah is a Sunni Islamist group that claims to be fighting for the rights of Sunni Muslims in Iran. Its activities and attacks are focused on Sistan-Baluchistan, which is the Islamic Republic’s only Sunni-majority province.
Jundallah’s involvement in Sunday’s attack exacerbates Iranian threat perceptions in two important ways.
First, the attack will intensify Iranian suspicions about the strategic intentions of Pakistan and Sunni Arab states allied to the United States. In no small part, these suspicions flow from efforts launched by President George W. Bush and continued under President Obama to forge a coalition of Sunni Arab states, along with the United States and Israel, to rollback the recent expansion of Iran’s regional influence. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, among other U.S. officials, continues to exhort Sunni Arab states to bolster their own military capabilities and join together with the United States and other regional players to “contain” the Islamic Republic.
For their part, Sunni Arab states are increasingly concerned about the Islamic Republic’s rising influence in important regional arenas – Iraq, Lebanon, Palestinian politics – which these states decry as Iranian influence in “Arab affairs”. In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states have been particularly exercised about what they see as Iranian “meddling” even in Yemen, where indigenous Shi’a have been protesting – sometimes violently – against what they claim is systematic discrimination against them.
Saudi Arabia has been actively seeking ways to “push back” against Iran. For example, the Kingdom played a critical role in funneling money to the March 14 coalition in Lebanon’s recent parliamentary elections – including paying for Lebanese expatriates to travel to Lebanon to vote for the March 14 bloc and against Hizballah, which has close ties to the Islamic Republic. In this context, support by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni states for Sunni Islamist groups operating against Iranian interests takes on an ominous cast in Iranian perceptions.
Jundallah is based in Pakistani Baluchistan, part of a dangerous “triangle” encompassing Baluchi areas in Iran, Baluchi areas in Pakistan, and Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan. Jundallah has long received various types of support from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate. Indeed, Iranian officials have already said that they believe the perpetrators of Sunday’s attack received assistance from ISI. From its base in Pakistani Baluchistan, Jundallah has ample opportunities to forge cooperative ties not only to ISI, but also to the Taliban and third-country intelligence services interested in stoking anti-Iranian activism. In particular, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service has a longstanding strategic collaboration with the ISI as well as a long record of dealing with Sunni Islamist groups operating out of Pakistan.
Second, and even more significantly, many experienced observers of U.S. intelligence activities in Central and South Asia believe that U.S. intelligence agencies have their own ties to Jundallah, and are using the group to foment instability – or, at least, the perception of instability – inside Iran. We do not know what the nature of the CIA’s links to Jundallah might be. However, as we wrote in a New York Times Op Ed in May, President Obama inherited from his predecessor a number of overt programs for “democracy promotion” in Iran, as well as covert initiatives directed against Iranian interests. Obama has done nothing to scale back or stop these programs – a posture that has not gone unnoticed in Tehran.
In this context, it will be easy for the Iranian leadership to believe that there was an American hand in Sunday’s attack. Notwithstanding State Department denials of U.S. involvement, Iran’s Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said explicitly that “the terrorist attack is the result of U.S. efforts and a sign of U.S. hostility towards Iran”. Larijani contrasted this “U.S. hostility” to President Obama’s offer of an extended hand to Iran, noting that the Iranian people rightly doubt America’s intentions.
Those readers familiar with our previous writings on Iran know that we believe the United States needs to reorient its policy toward the Islamic Republic as fundamentally as President Nixon reoriented U.S. policy toward the People’s Republic of China in the early 1970s. In this regard, it is illuminating to recall that, within months of taking office in January 1969, Nixon directed the CIA to stand down from a covert operations program in Tibet that had been going on for more than a decade. Similarly, Nixon ordered the Seventh Fleet to stop patrolling in the Taiwan Straits. Nixon took these steps to demonstrate to the Chinese leadership his seriousness about Sino-American strategic rapprochement. It is disappointing that President Obama is not prepared to demonstrate a similar level of seriousness about getting America’s Iran policy right.
– Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

Comments

31 comments on “Guest Note by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett: Obama – Stop Covert Activities Against Iran and Dump Bush’s Policy of Playing the Sunni-Shi’a “Card”

  1. ... says:

    keep on spreading fear and talk of fear wigwag.. that is all you have…

    Reply

  2. WigWag says:

    Speaking of Iran and the issue of its putative nuclear weapons, it may be worth remembering that 47 years ago today, the United States and the Soviet Union were enmeshed in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Crisis began on October 8, 1962 and concluded on October 28, 1962. October 23, 1962 is a particularly noteworthy day and perhaps one of the most dangerous days in human history.
    On October 23rd at approximately 11:30 pm, acting on orders from President Kennedy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff instructed the Strategic Air Command to go to DEFCON 2, for the only confirmed time in history.
    Let’s hope our political leaders are wise enough to pursue policies that prevent a similar occurrence from ever happening again.

    Reply

  3. BJ says:

    Nadine….
    Your falsehood is depicting the Arabs in Khuzestan as rebellious. Check-out the history of the area:
    http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/5067
    The author is Dr. Grossman, an independent researcher. I quote:
    “Encouraged by Western powers that were threatened by the revolution, Saddam Hussein launched a brutal invasion of Khuzestan in 1980, and occupied its western Arab oil region. He tried to engineer the secession of the province from Iran, and backed an Arab separatist rebel group (which also briefly seized the Iranian Embassy in London).
    Yet in the Iran-Iraq War, most Iranian Arab Shi’ites fought on the side of Persian-ruled Iran, just as Iraqi Arab Shi’ites fought on the side of Saddam’s Sunni-ruled Iraq. State territoriality trumped both ethnic and religious territoriality…”
    Apparently the only active rebelion is in London. Furthermore the more recent terrorist bombings in the area were not by indignous people but by foreign provocateurs. (see Seymour Hersh in April 17, 2006 New Yorker.)

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  4. Outraged American says:

    Prof. Muhammad Sahimi has a great article on this latest
    terrorist & most probably US backed attack on Iran at
    antiwar.com today.
    Jundallah and the Geopolitics of Energy
    (excerpt)
    But regardless of Iran’s internal political situation, there is ample
    evidence that the George W. Bush administration was deeply
    involved in funding Jundallah. While it is not clear what the
    policy of the Obama administration is regarding Jundallah (the
    State Department flatly rejected Iran’s accusations), it is unlikely
    that the CIA’s direct or indirect support for Jundallah has ended.
    http://tinyurl.com/ykluhyu
    (full article)
    http://original.antiwar.com/sahimi/2009/10/20/jundallah-
    and-the-geopolitics-of-energy/

    Reply

  5. JohnH says:

    Can this be? Now Nadine is channeling Saddam Hussein. Like Saddam, Nadine thinks that surely the people of Khuzestan want to be ruled by fellow Arabs. So Saddam invaded. If I recall correctly, Saddam’s troops were not greeted with roses…

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  6. nadine says:

    Arabs make up a slim majority in Khuzestan province near SE Iraq. There have been riots and unrest in Khuzestan for about the last five years…the Ahvas Arab Peoples Front is just the kind of movement that Arab governments can hook up with. They certainly have plenty of motive to return the ‘favor’ of Hizbullah.
    Now where was the falsehood? The number 3% is meaningless. What counts is the existence of an active rebellion.

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  7. BJ says:

    Nadine…Your October 18th 11:41PM assertion:
    “There are plenty of rebellious Arabs in Iran for the Sunni states to hook up with.”
    However, according to the CIA World Factbook, Iran’s ethnic groups in 2008 consisted of: “Persians 51%, Azeris 24%, Gilakis and Mazandaranis 8%, Kurds 7%, Arabs 3%, Lurs 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%.” Assuming all the Arabs are rebellious, 3% is not what you should call “plenty”
    I admire your talent for putting words onto paper but unfortunately much of your analyses are based on falsehoods.

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  8. JohnH says:

    It’s uncanny how Nadine can project her beliefs and motives onto “the other.” She know exactly how Palestinians would behave if they had power, because that is exactly how Israel has behaved for 60 years. Well, that is definitely something to fear! But it’s important to bear in mind that the colonized almost never rise up and exact revenge on their former colonial masters.

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  9. Outraged American says:

    Nadine just summed up Zionism in a pistachio shell: “It’s hardly
    a news flash that religious fanatic can use their piety as a
    permission slip to themselves for all kinds of plunder a rapine.
    What Dreyfuss does not seem to understand is that it doesn’t
    mean the piety is all fake. There are plenty of Tartuffes in all
    ages who have lied to themselves as well as they lie to others.”
    Avigdor? Is that you Avigdor? I thought your last name was
    Lieberman, not Tartuffe, but anyway, get out from in front of
    that disco!
    Avigdor, you have work to do, convincing the world that the
    biggest threat to Israel are Afghanistan and Pakistan! It’s easier
    now that they’re one country, after you let slip that they were a
    threat to Israel and VOILA the US State Dept. mushed them into
    one nation. Good job Avigdor! You need to go bounce the guy
    who said that your biggest muscle was your brain.
    ( Watch out Bibi, you might be coma-ed like Sharon was…)
    I seriously think Nadine that you’re working for the propaganda
    arm of Hamas or Hezbollah. What is the Arabic word for
    “hasbara”? Oh silly me, the Arab’s propaganda is so pathetic,
    they probably actually mean it when they say, “If you don’t kill us
    we won’t kill you.”

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  10. nadine says:

    Okay, I’ve read it. It seems to me that Dreyfuss doesn’t believe that the Taliban can be religious fanatics, as is offended by Rohde saying they are. So he tries to inject confusions and contradictions where they don’t exist. From his article:
    *****************
    At first, Rohde seems to imply that his view that the Taliban was not as militant and vicious as Al Qaeda was foolish:
    “I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become. Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of ‘Al Qaeda lite,’ a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan.
    “Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.”
    What exactly is Rohde getting at here? He says that he was wrong to believe that the Taliban was aimed at “controlling Afghanistan,” then he notes that he is being held by “Haqqanis’ followers” — who are not the same as the Taliban, which is based in Quetta, Pakistan — and then he mentions “hard-line Taliban,” implying that there is a softer version.
    Then Rohde muddies the picture even further. Later in Part I, he says:
    “I saw the Haqqanis as a criminal gang masquerading as a pious religious movement. They described themselves as the true followers of Islam but displayed an astounding capacity for dishonesty and greed.”
    Wait a minute! Earlier he told us that the Taliban are religious fanatics who want to create a worldwide emirate of Islam — and now the Haqqanis are portrayed as “masquerading” as pious. Which is it?
    *************************
    Dreyfuss keeps going aha! they have factions! that disproves the claim that they are religious fanatics. To which I say, it does? How?
    Nor, because Rohde admits that the “hard-line Taliban” have “become extreme” does it means that he is saying anything about other potentially less hard-line factions. He is instead admitting that he has misreported the Taliban for years. As I pointed out, the Taliban are not newly extreme, but have been extreme for years – cf. the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas, the massacre at Mazar e Sharif.
    It gets better when he seizes on corruption to “disprove” the religiousity of the Taliban, “Earlier he told us that the Taliban are religious fanatics who want to create a worldwide emirate of Islam — and now the Haqqanis are portrayed as “masquerading” as pious. Which is it?”
    It’s hardly a news flash that religious fanatic can use their piety as a permission slip to themselves for all kinds of plunder a rapine. What Dreyfuss does not seem to understand is that it doesn’t mean the piety is all fake. There are plenty of Tartuffes in all ages who have lied to themselves as well as they lie to others.
    The attempt to show that the Taliban aren’t really religious fanatics because there is corruption among their factions is actually pretty funny. If there weren’t corruption among their factions, now THAT would be news. This is the East, guys.
    I think Dreyfuss just wants to deny the possibility of the Taliban being genuine religious fanatics. Much of the Left can’t seem to believe in people who are driven by religious ideology. They keep trying to project other more materialist motives on them. As Rohde himself did before he was captured.

    Reply

  11. Outraged American says:

    Link to Dreyfuss article on questions about kidnapped NYT
    reporter’s confusing take on the Taliban.
    Who is the “Taliban” (see above post from me for first paragraph of
    the article.
    http://www.thenation.com/blogs/dreyfuss/486019/who_is_the_tal
    iban
    You’ll need to cut and past it into your brower, however I will try to
    link via tinyurl again.
    http://tinyurl.com/yk43d4b

    Reply

  12. nadine says:

    OA, your link doesn’t work.
    In the NYT times article, Rohde says quite clearly that he had reported for years that the Taliban were the second – a complex group distinct from Al Qaeda, interested mainly in Afghanistan – but it took captivity to make him realize that they were really the first – religious fanatics, who like Al Qaeda, were serious about building a worldwide Islamic emirate.
    In other words, he had misreported them for years.
    The question is of the utmost importance because you need to get it right before you do your own side harm trying to flip unflippable fanatics.

    Reply

  13. jonst says:

    “It would be interesting to see how the Iranians react if Israel does attack. Several Iranian expats are saying that the regime is now so widely seen as illegitimate that the country would not rally around it even after a military attack but would blame it instead”
    Holy Cow! We’re but a small step from ‘they’ll greet us with chocolates and flowers’ proving people think (and they may be correct, ‘by god, you CAN sell the same bridge twice, to the same group!’

    Reply

  14. David says:

    “…and end up producing the most natural, predictable result of bipolar rivalry: a war that chews up more of Americans’ sons, daughters, peace and wealth for the sake of the manic ideological, economic or chauvinistic agendas of narrow, powerful interests.”
    Goes to the heart of the matter, and chillingly so, Dan.

    Reply

  15. Outraged American says:

    O/T Dreyfuss over at The Nation has the same WTF questions
    about the NYT/ Taliban/kidnapped reporter saga that I did.
    Who is the “Taliban?”
    David Rohde’s series “Held by the Taliban,” which began running
    in the New York Times on Sunday makes gripping reading. (You
    can read Part I here and Part II here.) But so far, at least, it seems
    that Rohde isn’t clear on what the Taliban is. And his confusion
    is important, because one’s view of the Taliban is critical for US
    policy going forward. If the Taliban is one and the same with Al
    Qaeda, religious fanatics dedicated to a global jihad against the
    West above all, with no willingness to compromise, then that’s
    one thing. But if the Taliban is a compex social organism whose
    leaders are separate and distinct from Al Qaeda, and if it’s
    possible to persuade some or most of the Taliban’s leadership
    and commanders to sit down and talk, then that’s something
    else.
    continues
    http://tinyurl.com/yh8zlf8

    Reply

  16. bob h says:

    The attack should drive home the point to the Iranians that they and the Americans have common interests in combating militant Islam, as was the case with the Taliban.

    Reply

  17. ... says:

    nadine- pursue some covert efforts to bring down the your own gov’t… israelis need to figure out a way to replace the countries ethnocracy with a democracy..

    Reply

  18. nadine says:

    Dan, I took your comment as a swipe against any covert efforts to bring down the current Iranian regime, which is how it reads to me in the context of the previous paragraphs. If a regime is merely bad, I would agree with you that an overthrow is usually worse. But there are regimes so toxic that the rule doesn’t apply, and I think Iran has arrived at that point. It would be interesting to see how the Iranians react if Israel does attack. Several Iranian expats are saying that the regime is now so widely seen as illegitimate that the country would not rally around it even after a military attack but would blame it instead. TWT

    Reply

  19. Dan Kervick says:

    WigWag, I don’t see your point about Nasr. Kennedy also had a number of good, smart people in his administration who had his back. But there were also plenty of holdovers in the permanent government with their own agendas, and their is plenty of evidence that they worked is some cases to thwart or subvert Oval Office decisions, or to force Kennedy’s hands.
    Nadine, “hawkish cold warrior” isn’t a phrase that conveys much information in the context of 1961 and 1962. They were all hawks back then. But people like Helms, Hunt and big parts of the Cuban exile community had ideas about how to deal with Cuba that the Kennedys ended up increasingly turning away from after the Bay of Pigs. Kennedy’s relations with the CIA appear to have been quite tense afterward. He supposedly once said he wanted to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces.
    Your other comment is strange and irrelevant, since I never suggested “American adventurism” produced the Iranian revolution. My point is that many of the people who were involved in that revolution expected a different kind of government than the one they ended up with, and that this is typical of revolutions. Once the revolutionary furies are freed from their restraints, it is very hard to control or predict the outcome of the chaotic forces that are let loose. Provocateurs who dream of revolutions and plot them should bear that in mind.

    Reply

  20. erichwwk says:

    Obama in New Orleans: The callous face of the US ruling elite
    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/oct2009/obam-o17.shtml

    Reply

  21. JohnH says:

    It could well be that Obama does not have his foreign policy apparatus under control. Though Obama has initiated talks with Iran, rogue elements of the foreign policy apparatus may well be trying to sabotage them by encouraging terrorist operations in Iranian Baluchistan. This could be a direct result of the $400 million being spent on covert operations in Iran, operations which, as the Leveretts note, “Obama has done nothing to scale back or stop.” And he may not be in a position to reign them in, as Cheney’s acolytes are well entrenched in dark and perhaps secret corners.
    But, as Dan Kervick says, “Obama needs to do more to take control of his administration, and wrest it from the ideologues.” The last thing America needs at this juncture is another war, an event that could easily spin out of control and plunge the world into a severe economic depression.
    I appreciate TWN’s hosting the Leveretts. They represent a rare alternative to America’s failed Iranian policy of the last 30 years and to the “perpetual war” crowd now dominating the Washington foreign policy scene.

    Reply

  22. Pahlavan says:

    WigWag, Your uninformed example about Iran’s economy or the lack of understanding in the political dynamics between Russia, China and Iran, confirms your theory as personal propeganda. Even if Russia and China were to allow greater sancations, you fail to recognize that our so called friends in that region will excercize the same level of corruptness toward us the moment revenue is put on line. Just look at Dubai as a good example. Some want to romanticize that Iran is made up of the green youth we where shown on our television sets (for the first time ever, I must add) marching north of Tehran, just there clicking on facebook and twitter from one hand, and cnn, fox and bbc from the other. Sanctions are only going to alignate Iranians and complicate things further.
    Ballucheston bombings’ only significance will be its liability to the green movement, so Don’t hold your breath over Iran. We need to find ourselves another Doneky to give us a ride out of our economic mess, and if the last 30 years is any indication, barking further at Iran’s doorstep is only going to end with greater decline and humiliation.

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  23. nadine says:

    Dan, I think you’ve done a rewrite on Kennedy, who was himself a hawkish Cold Warrior. The question wasn’t goals, it was means.
    Leverett is really channeling the mullahs here: “Obama – Stop Covert Activities”? I’d feel much better about Obama if I thought it was remotely possible he had authorized any covert activities. He wants to “engage” Iran, and the Taliban, and the Sudan, and any other bloody dictator he can find. But Leverett thinks Obama is behind Jundallah. Go on, show us how the Brits are behind Jundallah too, siince the mullahs are blaming them too.
    When it comes to attacks on the mullahs, you have got a long suspect list. Don’t forget that half the citizens of Iran are not Persians, and they like the mullahs even less than the Persians do, if that’s possible. There are plenty of rebellious Arabs in Iran for the Sunni states to hook up with.
    “No more revolutionaries please; no more romantics; no more politics-by-young-student. The violent catastrophes of the revolutionary era in the West, along with the unfortunate result of the *last* revolution in Iran, should have taught us all the lesson that unleashing those demons generally brings more evil than good.”
    Dan, you are rewriting history again. American adventurism did not install the Islamic revolution in Iran. It was the fecklessness of Jimmy Carter who unleashed the revolution in Iran. Carter thought Ayatollah Khomenei was a religious holy man and he put the skids under our ally the Shah. You base your thinking on the very wrong idea that only action can lead to catastrophe; passivity can be even worse, especially when combined with bad judgment.

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  24. WigWag says:

    Dan, you suggest that Obama (like Kennedy) doesn’t have the foreign policy apparatus of his Administration under control. You worry that the military, intelligence and policy advisors he is surrounded by might be crazed ideologues. Then in the same breath you mention Vali Nasr as an antidote to some of this.
    But Vali Nasr is part of the Obama Administration. He is a senior advisor to Richard Holbrooke with responsibilities for Afghanistan and Pakistan and there are reports (unconfirmed) that he visited Tehran on behalf of the Administration as recently as May, 2009.

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  25. Dan Kervick says:

    More and more this period reminds me of the Kennedy administration, when a young president inherited a military and intelligence services filled with feverishly ideological and sometimes dangerously renegade holy warriors carrying on a crazed and obsessive campaign against Cuba. He was never able to achieve real control over his own administration, although he was able to prevent the worst and keep the ideologues and nuts from unleashing hell.
    The United States could be working on building a sustainable balance of power in the Persian Gulf, but is instead still listening to the crusaders and would-be catalysts of transformative aggression who got a major foothold on the American state in the last administration, and who prefer a destabilizing Cold War for the region, and seek to provoke cascading revolutionary violence. Now, it seems we may be involved in fomenting state terrorism by networks of Sunni militants and drug gangs similar to those that we are trying to defeat in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Did we learn nothing from our experience working with the “Afghan Arabs” in Afghanistan? Now it’s the “Iranian Sunnis”? Of course, these nuisances are unlikely to have any profound effect on the stability of Iran, but they may very well succeed in sabotaging chances for stabilization, diplomacy and balancing in the region, and end up producing the most natural, predictable result of bipolar rivalry: a war that chews up more of Americans’ sons, daughters, peace and wealth for the sake of the manic ideological, economic or chauvinistic agendas of narrow, powerful interests.
    I don’t know whether what is needed is a “grand bargain” with Iran or a series of small bargains. But Obama needs to do more to take control of his administration, and wrest it from the ideologues. They are deeply hostile to his political health, as well as to the health and well-being of most Americans.
    If we really want to make enduring friendships among the Iranian people, and have a constructive liberalizing influence that lasts over the long haul, we should open up the largest consumer market in the world to the exports of 75 million Iranians, and promote travel and cultural exchanges, instead of threatening to bomb them, impoverish them and turn their society upside-down, based on the bet that the friends we will make among some revolutionary students in Tehran will outweigh the enemies we make everywhere else. I think people should take a look at Vali Nasr’s newest book, which rightly emphasizes the role of the rise of commerce in transferring power over time from aristocratic and clerical elites to broader masses of people. Commerce, openness and patience are the recipe for dealing with Iran. The more a country is integrated with the world trading system, the more it has to normalize and universalize its internal rules to conform with the expectations of its business and trading partners, the more free and prosperous it becomes.
    No more revolutionaries please; no more romantics; no more politics-by-young-student. The violent catastrophes of the revolutionary era in the West, along with the unfortunate result of the *last* revolution in Iran, should have taught us all the lesson that unleashing those demons generally brings more evil than good.

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  26. WigWag says:

    By the way, “The RACE for IRAN” looks great! It has a nice clean look, it’s easy to read and the articles are provocative. Anything Ben Katcher is involved with has to be good; Mr. Leverett and Mrs. Mann-Leverett are lucky to have him.
    Even though I rarely agree with your point of view, as a Washington Note devotee I wanted to wish you the best of luck with the new venture. I am sure it will be very successful and that you will find alot of readers.
    I know that I will be reading because while my point of view usually differs from yours, I always learn something when I read your posts.
    I hope everyone at the Washington Note checks it out.
    Congratulations and best of luck!

    Reply

  27. Zathras says:

    I’d suggest that judgement on the bombings in Iranian Baluchistan be withheld until we know more about the situation there.
    At this point, few commentators on the subject appear to know very much: about the relation of the Iranian government and its security services to the population in southeastern Iran, about the economic interests that the Revolutionary Guard may be either protecting or threatening there, or about the linkages between militant Sunni groups and the terrorist factions that are causing so much trouble in Pakistan. It is perhaps a coincidence that terrorist attacks on Shiites in Pakistan have been going on for years, but perhaps not.
    The Leveretts, who appear to be communicating thoughts from the Ahmedinejad regime, do not attempt to shed light on any of these questions. They do restate the position they have put forth many times before, which is that the Obama administration should emulate Richard Nixon by striving toward rapprochement with the Iranian government, doing this by conceding to Tehran every point at issue. The historical analogy is questionable, and people can make their own judgements as to the policy recommendation. I note here only that the Leveretts contribute little to our understanding of a fairly dramatic development in a little-known part of the world, and suggest that Steve Clemons use his connections to locate a guest poster more knowledgable about the subject and less committed to repeating points from the same policy agenda over and over.

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  28. WigWag says:

    There is another flaw in the Leveretts’ argument. By suggesting that Nixon’s China policy should be the model for Obama’s Iran policy they are assuming that Nixon’s China policy was a success. But we really don’t know that; do we?
    Certainly we can assess the state of the U.S. China relationship today. And we can engage in conjecture about whether the outcome of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union would have been resolved differently had Nixon’s China policy never been put into effect.
    But we don’t know how the world would be different today had Nixon had never engaged China. Would the Chinese Communist Party have fallen the way Communist Parties all over Eastern Europe and the Soviet Republics did? Would the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have reunited under a democratic form of government the way East and West Germany did?
    Would the Chinese have developed an export based economy that started primarily as a source for inexpensive manufactured goods made for the American market? Would China be a stronger economic force today or a weaker economic force? Would China present greater financial and trade challenges to the United States today or would those challenges be less acute? Would China be more closely aligned to the United States than it is now or would it be more distant?
    Would Tibet be free?
    We know the Leveretts are smart, articulate, experienced realists. We know that they think interests trump principles. What we don’t know about the Leveretts is whether they’re Panglossians.
    Do they assume that we live in the best of all possible worlds? Are they so sure that Nixon’s engagement of China was the right thing to do and that Chinese-American relations would definitely be worse today but for the decisions Nixon made 40 years ago?
    If we can’t really be sure that engaging China was the right decision, is it smart for the Leveretts to be base so much of their argument on forging a “grand bargain” with Iran on the premise that if it worked for Nixon it has to work for Obama?

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  29. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Iran’s population is tiny compared to China; it is struggling to develop fission weapons…..”
    You claim, with no substantiating evidence.
    But in actuality, for those of us that deal in facts, it is Israel that uses weapons designed for mass casualties on non-combatant civilian populations. If there is any one country on earth that has shown it cannot be trusted with such weapons, it is Israel.
    It is truly quite ironic seeing you call for “turning up the pressure” on Iran, considering your recent sympathies for the Iranian protestors, and stated concern for their well-being. As you are fond of drooling out the scripted nonsense of the typical fearmongering jackass that expects American kids to take up arms for the Israeli agenda, I assume “turning up the pressure” means “crippling sanctions”, which would do NOTHING to change the direction of the Iranian nuclear program, but would inflict extreme hardship on those Iranian citizens you would have us believe you actually give a shit about.
    You argue a policy that will increase Iranian nationalism and patriotism. Why is it you zionists never seem to be happy unless you’re stepping on your own dick?

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  30. WigWag says:

    “Those readers familiar with our previous writings on Iran know that we believe the United States needs to reorient its policy toward the Islamic Republic as fundamentally as President Nixon reoriented U.S. policy toward the People’s Republic of China in the early 1970s. In this regard, it is illuminating to recall that, within months of taking office in January 1969, Nixon directed the CIA to stand down from a covert operations program in Tibet that had been going on for more than a decade. Similarly, Nixon ordered the Seventh Fleet to stop patrolling in the Taiwan Straits.” (Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett)
    Nixon’s China policy is a poor metaphor for what Obama should do vis a vis Iran. When Nixon went to China, it was not only the largest nation in the world; it was armed with scores of nuclear weapons (including thermonuclear weapons). Most importantly, by engaging China the way he did, Nixon gained a significant strategic advantage over the most serious adversary the United States has ever faced in its history, the Soviet Union.
    The Leveretts complain about Secretary Gates and his marshalling of the Sunni Arab nations to contain Iran. But wasn’t one of the prime motivating forces behind Nixon’s decision to engage China his desire to contain the Soviet Union?
    Iran’s population is tiny compared to China; it is struggling to develop fission weapons and, as the Leveretts themselves have pointed out, it is isolated and friendless. The benefits to forging a “grand bargain” with Iran are de minimis compared to the benefits of engaging China.
    It is true that the United States sold out the people of Tibet; few people other than the Leveretts actually celebrate that as some kind of victory. But the United States had no realistic way of helping the people of Tibet; we do have at least some options for assisting the freedom fighters in Iran.
    “Saudi Arabia has been actively seeking ways to “push back” against Iran. For example, the Kingdom played a critical role in funneling money to the March 14 coalition in Lebanon’s recent parliamentary elections – including paying for Lebanese expatriates to travel to Lebanon to vote for the March 14 bloc and against Hezbollah, which has close ties to the Islamic Republic.” (Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett)
    Perhaps the Leveretts can explain why it is legitimate for Iran to ship weapons to Hezbollah; provide both Hezbollah and Amal with tens of millions of dollars in aid and support Syrian interference in Lebanon that resulted in the assassination of the Lebanese President and several members of Parliament, but there’s something nefarious about Saudi assistance to Sunni and Christian Lebanese. Do the Leveretts really expect us to believe that if the Sunni Arab nations stopped supporting the March 14 bloc, Iran would stop supporting Hezbollah? The Saudis shipped the March 14 coalition several million dollars; the Iranians shipped Hezbollah at least that much money and missiles and other weapons to boot. Is it the Saudis who are interfering in Lebanon or is it Iran?
    “Jundallah is based in Pakistani Baluchistan, part of a dangerous “triangle” encompassing Baluchi areas in Iran, Baluchi areas in Pakistan, and Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan. Jundallah has long received various types of support from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate.” (Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett)
    Isn’t Pakistani Baluchistan a restive region constantly threatening to break away from Pakistan? Doesn’t Pakistan have its hands full with Baluchistan? Yes, Iran does have to confront a terrorist group in “Jundallah.” Exactly how many different terrorist groups does Pakistan have to confront? The suicide attack in Iran was terrible; how often do they happen? How often do suicide attacks occur in Pakistan?
    Is Iran really in a position to complain about suicide attacks anyway? Until three years ago, Hamas launched suicide attack after suicide attack inside of Israel. They blew up pizzerias, buses and Bar Mitzvahs with alarming regularity. The suicide attacks didn’t stop until Israel walled the terrorists in (along with plenty of people who weren’t terrorists) and killed their leadership. Weren’t these suicide attacks sponsored and paid for by Iran? Aren’t Iranian complaints about “Jundallah” a little like the pot calling the kettle black?
    If this post is to be believed, Iran is more isolated than ever. They have the enmity of the entire Sunni Muslim world, most of Western Europe, Israel and the United States. The Iranian economy is in shambles; Iran faces tremendous internal strife; its clerical establishment is engaged in a near civil war and its surrogates in Lebanon and Gaza are far weaker than they were just a few short months ago.
    Isn’t this the time to conclude that pressure on Iran seems to be working? Why follow the Leveretts advice and throw the reactionary Mullahs a life line?
    Wouldn’t a more effective strategy be turning up the pressure more than ever?

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  31. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Meanwhile, in terms of growing Iranian influence throughout the Middle East, I see Iran is upping the ante in Lebanon, and providing increased assistance with the demining process, aiding in ridding Lebanese farmlands of hundreds of thousands of unexploded Israeli cluster bomblets…..
    http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091017/FOREIGN/710169793/1002
    There have been over 300 casualties since the end of the Lebanese/Israel “war” from these bomblets, (mostly children), and their presence has rendered some farmlands fallow.
    Iran sees opportunity in such outreach, while Obama further alienates the global Muslim community by extending and adding to the anti-islamic policies of the Bush Administration. One can only see Obama’s failure to back up his strong rhetoric about Israeli settlement expansion, and his stance on the Goldstone Report, as tremendous diplomatic blunders. And to add insult to injury, his willingness to maintain the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy about Israel’s nuclear arsenal only increases the perception that his outreach to the Muslim community is empty rhetoric.
    It is surreal seeing Israel and the United States decrying the increase in Iranian influence in the Middle East, while committing to policies that aid Iran’s increasing influence. Perhaps if we had technicians in the field demining Lebanese farmlands, rather than a President seeking to bury the Goldstone Report, the global Muslim community could see our intentions as something other than nefarious.

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