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The Race for Iran

What the Obama-Romney Foreign Policy Consensus Means for U.S. Interests; Hillary Mann Leverett on al Jazeera

Commenting on the Obama-Romney foreign policy debate on Al Jazeera, click on video above or link here, Hillary Mann Leverett pointed out that “the one question that could not really be sharply asked or answered was:  ‘Was the American ambassador in Libya actually killed by people who were armed, trained, and funded by the United States and our so-called allies.’  That can’t be asked because both of these candidates are about remaking the Muslim world and killing Muslims with drones.  That’s not a serious policy.  A serious policy should look squarely at what the United States is doing, in terms of arming, training, and funding people to overthrow their governments.  That’s not normal, constructive behavior, and it will come back to haunt the United States.” 

The Obama-Romney debate revealed much about the strategic and moral bankruptcy of America’s approach to the Middle East.  On Syria, attachment to the delusion that the United States can arm, fund and train fighters to undermine the Assad government—and that some of those same fighters won’t turn weapons they have been given against U.S. and Western interests—remains strong in both the Democratic and Republican camps.  This delusion is grounded, in large part, in an assessment that overthrowing the Assad government—Iran’s “only Arab ally”—will undermine Iran’s regional position and perhaps even spark the Islamic Republic’s overthrow.  But, as Hillary notes, “Iran’s ‘only Arab ally’ today is not Syria.  Did [Romney] ever hear of Iraq?  Iraq is today Iran’s closest ally in the Arab world.  That’s a huge country.  Iran can also get anywhere it wants through Suez, because now it has Egypt.  So, for the first time in 30 years, Iranian military ships can go through Suez.”  

Like its Libya policy, America’s policy toward Syria also holds significant potential for blowback.  This was highlighted by recent reports of anti-Assad fighters in Jordan taking weapons they had been provided, ostensibly to use in their campaign to unseat the Syrian government, and instead making plans to attack the U.S. Embassy and other targets in the Hashemite Kingdom.  As Hillary comments, “That doesn’t even get questioned…People don’t even seem to be phased by it, that there was a planned attack on a[nother] U.S. Embassy that could have killed more Americans, because of a policy that we’ve egged on in Syria, just like we egged it on in Libya and then we are ‘shocked, shocked’ when our ambassador gets killedWe’re going to be ‘shocked, shocked’ again that we’re going to have a problem in Jordan or some of the other pro-American client states.”    

On Iran, Obama was, if anything, more hawkish than Romney.  As Hillary points out, Obama “actually gave Prime Minister Netanyahu his red line”—by noting how, as a result of America’s intelligence cooperation with Israel, the United States would know when Iran is approaching “breakout” capability and pledging that a re-elected Obama administration would act military to prevent the Islamic Republic from crossing such a threshold.  Romney, in contrast, “focused on an oil embargo, which will have devastating [humanitarian] effects…but it’s not the same red line that Netanyahu has been demanding and that I think he received in a significant way tonight from President Obama.”  Hillary excoriates Romney’s proposal to indict Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—“who will be leaving office in a few months”—for inciting genocide as a call to indict Ahmadinejad “for the nonexistent threat that Ahmadinejad never made to wipe Israel off the map.  That has become a social fact because the President, others, other candidates, and many in the media repeat it…But it was never said.  And now Romney would like to initiate court proceedings.” 

On Afghanistan, Hillary’s fellow commentator, former British diplomat Carne Ross, notes that “neither candidate really mentioned the fact that [America’s] Afghanistan policy is in crisis, that there is a really severe threat of a complete breakdown after the U.S. withdrawal; indeed, that breakdown is arguably already happening.”  Picking up on the point, Hillary recounts how Obama “decided to send tens of thousands of young Americans [to Afghanistan]—some of whom I’ve had in my classes at American University—who go believing that they are fighting for something, but the something seems to have been just political cover to let Obama take troops out” later, even though the situation is deteriorating.  Afghan “security forces are being trained up—and are killing their American trainers.  This is a crisis.  There’s no political strategy.  There’s no political vision” on how to stabilize Afghanistan through a negotiated political settlement and power-sharing among various Afghan constituencies. 

Finally, on China, Hillary critiques America’s “pivot to Asia”—which is likely to continue and intensify either under a re-elected Obama administration or a new Romney administration—as “fail[ing] to understand the changing balance of power and the rise, not just of China, but of India, of the BRICS, of even Iran and Turkey, of even Egypt.  It fails to understand that the United States is a country, not in absolute decline, but in relative decline.  In that circumstance, we have to be able to play well with others, not just beat them in these so-called wars.” 

In Hillary’s view, Romney lays out a maximalist strategy, “which will require a tremendous amount of money we don’t have,” to “pacify the entire world”:  a strategy for the United States to “to bring peace (peace just means pro-American political and security order) to the world.  We have to bring it everywhere.  That means not just trying to pursue dominance and hegemony in the Middle East, but in Asia and everywhere.”  And while Romney is being criticized in some quarters for having embraced too many of the same policies that Obama has pursued during his first term in office, Obama could just as easily (and accurately) be criticized for pursuing too many of George W. Bush’s foreign policies.   

And that’s the state of America’s foreign policy “debate.” 

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

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Flynt Leverett on Iran, the United States, and the Prospects for Conflict Resolution in Syria

On Russia Today’s Crosstalk this week, see here, Flynt emphasized that “a negotiated political settlement remains the only way out of the mess” in Syria.  Noting that Former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi, “in his role as the U.N. and Arab League envoy, is trying to get traction with a process, trying to use a ceasefire for [the upcoming Muslim holiday] Eid al-Adha to jumpstart that,” Flynt reviews the regional and international state of play:    

“Iran, for its part, has supported the plan; the Syrian government has expressed its willingness to cooperate.  And, in something of an important shift in previous policy, Turkey is now saying it would support this initiative.  It really remains to be seen whether other players—not just players in the Syrian opposition but other regional players—whether Gulf Arab states would be prepared to support this and use their influence with opposition groups.  Will the United States be prepared to support this?  This would require a significant change in direction for the United States, for the Gulf Arab states to support this kind of initiative, but it really is the only way out.” 

Flynt also relates the diplomatic state of play to the disposition of public opinion in Syria:    

“I think that there is a genuine popular base for the opposition in Syria, there are indigenous factors that contribute to this conflict, certainly.  But I also think that the Syrian government, the Assad government, retains the support of probably a narrow majority of the Syrian population…at least half of the Syrian population still supports the government.  That’s why I say I don’t think there is a military solution to this.  I am not that confident that the Assad government can really win militarily, particularly as long as the opposition is supported by outside players.  But I also don’t think that there’s a way for the opposition to win.  [So] I come back to my basic point—that the only way out of this is a negotiated political process

The problem so far has been that there are players—the United States, the Gulf Arabs, the Turks—that have insisted up to this point that a political process have not just preconditions but what you might call “pre-results”:  that Assad’s departure had to be stipulated at the get-go.  And for the United States, there’s this further concern that they’ve never wanted to have Iran involved in a regional process or a contact group on Syria.  That’s just not a serious diplomatic position, if you want a political settlement…If we are going to have a political settlement, it is going to require some significant shifts in Turkish and U.S. and Gulf Arab policies.” 

There is additional discussion of the real drivers of U.S. policy toward Syria and about just who is introducing sectarianism into the conflict.  (It isn’t the Assad government or the Islamic Republic of Iran.)  Flynt also pushes back against suggestions from another panelist that the Arab Awakening has been a “disaster” for Iran and that one should not link the U.S. intervention in Libya with Washington’s posture toward the conflict in Syria:          

“The Iranians definitely see this differently—and I think they actually are right on this point, analytically.  They think that the Arab Awakening is working very, very strongly in their favor, in that any government in this region which becomes at all more representative of its people’s attitudes, beliefs, preferences, and so forth is automatically going to become less interested in strategic cooperation with the United States (much less with Israel) and is going to become more open to an Iranian message of resistance

In terms of the comparison—the way the U.S. is dealing with Libya, the way the U.S. is dealing with Syria—obviously the United States has not intervened directly, militarily yet in Syria.  But I think that the fact that, in contrast to Libya, Russia and China have been willing to veto three Security Council resolutions, which would have legitimated that sort of intervention by the United States, is a really important factor here.  It’s certainly no guarantee that the United States won’t, at some point, act without a Security Council resolution.  The United States, unfortunately, has done that before.  But I think that has been an important constraint on the United States in this situation.” 

Along with the U.S.-Iranian relationship, the conflict in Syria is one of the most important factors that will shape regional dynamics in the Middle East over the next decade.  And Washington is yet again pursuing policies that not only increase the level of human suffering in the Middle East, but also work against America’s long-term interests in the region.  

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

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Hillary Mann Leverett on What’s Really Behind Iran Sanctions

 

On Al Jazeera’s Inside Story this week, see here, Hillary underscored that, notwithstanding Western rhetoric about “targeted” measures that punish the Iranian government but somehow spare ordinary Iranians, the real purpose of sanctions is “to increase hardship for ordinary Iranians”—just as “sanctions imposed on other governments and other systems, like the sanctions that were imposed for over a decade on Iraq,” were intended to make ordinary Iraqis suffer.  In contrast to the all-too-frequent line put forward in Washington, Hillary makes clear that the sanctions against Iran “are in no way targeted.  When you sanction the Central Bank of Iran, when you say that SWIFT can’t handle banking transactions into and out of Iran, you are covering transactions that people need in order to buy food and medicine…There’s nothing targeted about it.” 

As Hillary reminds, we know very well how effective sanctions proved at making ordinary Iraqis suffer; more than one million Iraqi civilians—half of them children—died as a result of their imposition.  This was the policy that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright revoltingly defended with her claim that “the price was worth it.”  And worth it for what?  As Hillary recounts, “to disarm Saddam Hussein of weapons he didn’t have.” 

Likewise, the United States is sanctioning Iranians “over a nuclear weapons program that the Islamic Republic does not have.  Both the U.S. intelligence agencies and even the Israeli intelligence agencies say that the Islamic Republic does not have a weapons program.”  Yet, we are going through the same “bad movie once again” as with Iraq. 

The claim that sanctions are intended to facilitate nuclear diplomacy is, to say the least, disingenuous.  As Hillary describes, the underlying problem that the United States and its allies have with the Islamic Republic is not just the nuclear program.  Sanctions in the United States and elsewhere against Iran have been authorized over

“the nuclear issue, but also on questions about Iran’s human rights behavior and human rights and its supposed sponsorship of terrorism…If, for some reason, there were some kind of progress, some kind of advance in nuclear talks…the United States could not lift its sanctions, for two reasons.  One, most of the sanctions have been done legislatively, so whatever the President wants to do doesn’t matter; Congress here will have a veto.  And two, even if there were progress on the nuclear issue, that would do nothing to address the United States’ supposed concerns about Iran’s human rights and support for so-called terrorism…There’s no way that Iran gets out of this, just like there was no way that Iraq could get out from under its sanctions.”         

So why do American administrations and the Congress want to inflict such suffering on mass populations in countries that defy Washington?  As Hillary explains, the United States does this “with the idea that [people] will then rise up and overthrew their government and get rid of a system that Washington does not like.”  (One of the other guests, Sadeq Zibakalam of the University of Tehran, observes that most Iranians do not believe that the sanctions are really about Iran’s nuclear activities; from an Iranian perspective, if America and its allies were not focused on the nuclear issue, they “would have picked up on something else” as an excuse to punish the Islamic Republic for its revolutionary origins and insistence on an independent foreign policy.) 

Yet, as Hillary relates, history shows that sanctions do not work actually to force a population to rise up and overthrow its government.  Even after killing over one million Iraqis, sanctions did not move Iraqis to overthrow their government—only an armed invasion by the United States did so.  More significantly, the specific historical experience with sanctioning post-revolutionary Iran indicates that the Islamic Republic responds to the infliction of hardship with “an increased ability to rely on indigenous production, indigenous capacity”—from the Iran-Iraq war until the present day. 

Of course, the historical record is poorly understood in much of the world where the Islamic Republic is concerned.  Even on this Inside Story episode, Al Jazeera’s moderator makes two shockingly inaccurate claims—that Iran “is importing gasoline at the moment, simply because it does not have the infrastructure or, indeed, the economic power at the moment to refine enough gasoline for the automobiles within its own country” (the Islamic Republic is now a net exporter of gasoline) and that “this raises questions about a country that can have the ability to refine uranium to the 20-percent in which it can be used in nuclear weapons” (20-percent enrichment is, of course, nowhere close to the level required for weapons-grade fissile material).       

Hillary drives home that a widespread lack of historical knowledge about sanctions and contemporary realities in the Middle East allows those “who want to have even more forceful, coercive, military actions” to say “look, sanctions didn’t work, we checked that box, [and now] we have to take even more military, more aggressive action against this recalcitrant state that is challenging, particularly, U.S. policies and preferences.  That is exactly what happened with Iraq, and this is, unfortunately, the road we’re on with Iran.” 

And Hillary makes clear that such an outcome will impose severe costs not just on the Islamic Republic, but even more so on the United States itself:  “The problem is not only the moral cost of the number of Iranians who will suffer, but…what this will do to the United States—our position in the Middle East and our position in the global economy.  We cannot afford yet again to make a mistake, as we did in Iraq, and to make it on a scale exponentially larger with the Islamic Republic of Iran…My concern is that this path leads us to another unnecessary war in the Middle East, that will not only kill people but will dramatically degrade America’s standing.”

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

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On U.S. Efforts to Take Away Iran’s Rights by (Unilaterally) Rewriting the NPT: And the Complicity of America’s Iran “Experts” in the Charade

One of the more striking passages in President Obama’s address to the United Nations General Assembly last month presented Obama’s view of Iran’s nuclear rights.  Specifically, the President noted, “We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United States is to see that we harness that power for peace.”    

This is a more restrictive formulation than Obama and senior officials in his administration have deployed in previous statements, which emphasized that Iran has a right to “pursue peaceful nuclear energy.”  In normal English usage, the verb “to pursue” implies that, in the official American view, Iran might at least have a right to generate its own “peaceful nuclear energy.”  By contrast, Obama’s more recent phrasing implies that, in Washington’s current reading, Iran does not even have a right to generate its own nuclear power, but may have to content itself with trying to “access to peaceful nuclear power” that is generated by others

Needless to say, all of this is far removed from Iran’s longstanding insistence on its right to enrich uranium if it chooses to do so.  And, of course, Iran has long recognized that, as a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), it must exercise that right under international monitoring

Initially, even the George W. Bush administration acknowledged that there was, somewhere in a vague legal ether, an Iranian right to enrich—but it argued that Tehran had somehow managed to “forfeit” this right.  Such an argument did not persuade most of the lawyers working on the issue in the Bush administration, much less most of the other nations of the world.  Eventually, the Bush administration retreated to a rigid demand that the Islamic Republic obey Security Council resolutions calling on it to suspend enrichment before the United States would negotiate with Tehran—and without ever stipulating that a negotiated settlement would include an explicit recognition of Iran’s nuclear rights.  Predictably, this stance was diplomatically dysfunctional. 

When the Obama administration came in, it dropped the Bush administration’s insistence on suspension as a precondition for negotiations.  But it has been even less willing than the Bush administration to acknowledge Iran’s nuclear rights—and it, too, has the diplomatic (non)results to show for its obtuseness.         

From a global perspective, the positions of the Bush and Obama administrations on Iran’s right to develop indigenous nuclear fuel cycle capabilities and to pursue internationally safeguarded enrichment of uranium on its own territory make the United States a real outlier.  This reality was underscored in August at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, convened in Tehran, where NAM members—including the vast majority of the world’s nation-states—strongly endorsed the Islamic Republic’s right to pursue uranium enrichment.  Although hardly covered in the American media, the NAM summit marked a significant international repudiation of U.S. policy regarding the nuclear rights of Iran and, by extension, other non-Western NPT signatories.    

In the United States, this prompted defenders of the Bush/Obama line to spring into action.  One of them, David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, co-wrote a piece for the U.S. government-sponsored Iran Primer last month, see here, which argued that the NAM communique “misconstrues the NPT.”  This sparked a vigorous online exchange between Albright—who is not a lawyer or student of international legal regimes—and Daniel Joyner, professor at the University of Alabama’s School of Law and one of the legal academy’s most accomplished scholars of the NPT.  That exchange reveals much about the contribution of many Western Iran “experts” to America’s Iran debate. 

According to Albright and his co-author, “Under Article IV [of the NPT], Iran cannot claim the right to nuclear energy production—or a right to enrich at all—while under investigation for possible non-peaceful uses of these capabilities.  Iran’s right to nuclear energy is qualified—a long as there are no major lapses in its Article II obligations…the NAM communique failed to acknowledge the need for Iran to fully comply with the international treaty on nuclear weapons.  Iran tried to portray that the final communique represented a diplomatic victory for Tehran and its controversial nuclear program.  But the summit’s resolution instead undermined the Non-Aligned Movement’s credibility, since it demonstrated that developing nations cannot be counted on to deal seriously with nuclear nonproliferation issues.” 

Leaving aside the patronizing tone of the last sentence—in effect, Albright and his co-author are positing that responsible Americans and Europeans (the rightful masters of the universe) cannot possibly think non-Westerners are “dealing seriously” with important international issues unless those non-Westerners simply accept, uncritically, the views advanced by their Western superiors—this statement is wrong on several substantive points.  Among other things, it is wrong as an interpretation of the NPT and in its assertion that there have been “major lapses” in Iran’s Article II obligations.  These features prompted Daniel Joyner to offer the following observations on his blog, Arms Control Law, see here

“Why is it that in the nonproliferation area everyone, including engineers, physicists, chemists and general policy wonks, think they can do legal interpretation?  You won’t find me writing articles about the technical aspects of missile capabilities, or the internal physics of a warhead core.  I know these things are outside of my training and qualification to do.  But apparently everyone thinks they can do legal analysis.  With respect, I think David should stick to obsessing over satellite pictures of tarps at random military bases in Iran.” 

On our own, we found Joyner’s comment mildly amusing.  But it clearly touched a nerve in David Albright, see here, who responded with a remarkable broadside characterized by ad hominem invective and fallacious arguments from authority: 

“I have belatedly read Joyner’s rant about our Iran Primer article with amusement and likewise find his chorus of lackeys a pathetic bunch.  Now I understand that Joyner’s blogging is supposed to be an ego trip for him and a safe haven for commentators, but Joyner’s blogging is particularly egotistical and, with respect, off-the-wall.  In the comments and in Joyner’s writings, I can see the deep ignorance of the NPT.  I certainly see no need to revise our analysis and statements in our Iran Primer article.  We have consulted with many lawyers who find Joyner’s analysis deeply flawed and agenda driven…I would recommend that Joyner have his work reviewed by competent lawyers.  He would need to revise most of his work.” 

Joyner responded vigorously, see here, making the point, among his other rejoinders, that he has published two peer-reviewed books, with Oxford University Press, on interpreting the NPT.  But, for our purposes, the most important part of his response concerns the public posture adopted by too many Washington, DC-based policy “experts” and the motives for their adoption of such a posture.  Joyner’s analysis focuses on nonproliferation specialists, but, in our view, it also applies very well to many who claim expertise on other Iran-related issues: 

”A colleague in D.C. once said this to me about the U.S. nonproliferation epistemic community—and by this community we both meant the entirety of the various NGOs and think tanks and the few University based centers that focus on nonproliferation studies in the U.S.:  that the community is very D.C. centric, cliquish, incestuous and self-referential, to its detriment.  These words have really stuck with me, because I find them to be absolutely true, and both insightful and parsimonious as I’ve observed the community over the years.

I would take it even further and say that in addition, in my opinion, the whole U.S. based nonproliferation experts community—with few exception—is systematically biased toward support of USG positions on all the top nonproliferation issues.  They maintain an essentially common narrative and set of emphases that is in line with, and that provides support for, the narrative and emphases of the USG, with only the smallest amounts of quibbling around the edges (Albright will talk all day long about his “aluminum tubes” work).  I think that there is in the work of the U.S. nonproliferation epistemic community far too little real, independent evaluation and criticism of USG positions.  As I see it, the U.S. nonproliferation community almost acts as a second wave of apologists for U.S. policy, after the USG itself—though it sometimes shrouds this effort in a lot of technical and sometimes academic-looking jargon.  But in the end what the U.S. nonproliferation community ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT DO is serve in the role of an independent, rigorous, analytical check on USG nonproliferation positions, as it could and should do, and as the nongovernmental nonproliferation community in other countries does.  And I think there are some clear reasons for this.  Much more so than in other countries, the members of the U.S. based nonproliferation community tend, with very few exceptions, to

1)  have been employed by the USG in the past;

2) want to be employed by the USG in the future;

3) be funded by or hope to be funded by the USG; and/or

4) want to maintain the access and good favor they have with USG officials, for the sake of information and for the sake of invitations to cool events, etc. 

Basically what I’m saying is that they are biased towards the positions of the USG, because of their overly close personal and institutional associations with the USG, and because they see their own professional success as being tied to the favor of the USG.

I think there’s also a significant degree of media whorishness at work here as well.  As a colleague once wrote to me while we were discussing this topic:  ‘I think there is another—very important—aspect you may be missing that may even over-ride the ones you mention:  aside from taking USG positions, the non-proliferation community likes the high-media profile allotted it, when it loudly tut-tuts 3rd world nuclear arms capacities (or enemies of the west’s nuclear arms capacities), whether or not such capacities are consistent w/ NPT and/or CSAs.  People like being quoted, appearing on TV, and generally feeling important.  The Non-proliferation community “loves” the attention and basks in this glow, and though they would “privately” acknowledge that Iran is not so far outside bounds (if at all), they nonetheless pass on statements and innuendo to media indicating the alleged dangers and thus wittingly or not, fan the flames.  Others like ISIS simply pass on opinions dressed as expert findings.  It just would not do for Non-proliferation types to tell the media:  “well, no, Iran’s program is actually not a threat to world peace yet” like the DNI did.’” 

Not surprisingly, Joyner sees David Albright as embodying this description, as he points out in criticizing some of Albright’s analysis on Iran’s nuclear activities: 

“All [Albright] really does is make provocative speculations about what “could” be happening at locations in Iran, and what “maybe” Iran will do in the future.  And it’s so clear that he’s working on the basis of a set of unproven, but firmly held assumptions about Iran—the same assumptions he had about Iraq, for which his work has been widely discredited—that they have a nuclear weapons program, and he is ginning up all the evidence he can that might support that assumption, speculating about what that evidence may mean, but only in a direction that would tend to support his preexisting assumption.  There’s no rigor here in thoroughly considering and evaluating other possible explanations for the same observations—like a real academic or even a real, quality NGO analysis would.  Maybe it’s because David has never done PhD level academic work, and so he doesn’t understand what is expected of quality scientific analysis.  But this is an assumption-driven piece of provocative speculation that serves only to provide support for the USG’s contentions about Iran’s nuclear program.  That’s just what he infamously did in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq war too. That’s not rigorous and independent analysis. That’s biased and low quality work…

I know very well how the D.C. nonproliferation crowd feels about me…They think my work is pro-Iranian and generally pro-developing country, and anti-U.S.  They say I’m biased and agenda driven…Am I personally sympathetic to or biased towards the policies of the Iranian government? Absolutely not…However, do I think that the legal arguments of the current government of Iran deserve a fair and independent and rigorous hearing and analysis by the international community, just as the legal arguments of any other government do?  Yes I do, for many reasons, not least of which is the prevention of unnecessary and unjust economic sanctions and possibly war against the Iranian people, and the fairness and perceived legitimacy and relevance of international law.  I don’t see anyone else stepping up to make these arguments, and make sure that they are taken seriously in the West, and that’s why I keep doing it.

Am I sympathetic to developing countries’ positions in the nuclear energy area generally?  Yes I am.  I admit that freely.  And it’s because I genuinely think that they are bullied by the West in the nuclear area, as in many other areas, for a whole range of political and economic reasons, and that the legal advisors of Western governments have concocted erroneous legal arguments to give perceived credibility to these policies.  I can’t change the policies and the politics they’re based on, but I think there is a real need to lend whatever professional abilities I have to making sure that their legal arguments are made at a high level of competence and sophistication, and are given due consideration by the international community.  Again, no one else seems to be doing this in the West, and so I keep doing it.  But I maintain that my legal analysis is independent and essentially objective, and that I follow the proper analysis of a legal source to its most persuasively correct conclusion, no matter what that conclusion is.

I think that the U.S. nonproliferation community, linked so closely as it is to the USG itself, generally takes a negative view of my work for a number of reasons.  One of the primary reasons is that they are so used to being able to effectively tell the rest of the world what to think about the NPT regime, and how to interpret the law associated with it, that when someone independent comes along and poses a genuine intellectual challenge to the warped and USG driven legal views of the NPT regime that they’ve been spouting for decades, they genuinely don’t know what to do about it.  With the errors and intellectual bankruptcy of their legal arguments laid bare, they make only feeble attempts to defend themselves substantively because, honestly, they don’t have very good substantive arguments to make and they never have.  The only argument they have left to make is to argue in desperation that the challenger is biased and agenda driven—which is in the end the ultimate irony, because it’s precisely their own bias and USG-centric agenda that has made their arguments so weak, and has provided the legal errors that the challenger now corrects, to the persuasion of everyone else in the world.” 

Our compliments to Prof. Joyner. 

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

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