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The Race for Iran

EXPLAINING THE CONCEPT OF “LIES” TO JEFFREY GOLDBERG (AND LEE SMITH)

In two previous posts on this blog, “Explaining the Concept of ‘Learning Curve’ to Jeffrey Goldberg” and “Explaining the Concept of ‘Facts’ to Jeffrey Goldberg”, Hillary Mann Leverett responded to a pair of truly shoddy pieces of “journalism” written about her by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.  Now we write jointly in response to a third such offfense, “The Iranian Revolutionary Guard-Flynt Leverett Connection”, which Mr. Goldberg posted on his blog yesterday.  Goldberg’s post both links to and quotes from an “article” published by one Lee Smith earlier this week in The Tablet—an online publication which, until this week, we had never heard of.  Mr. Goldberg, it turns out, is a contributing editor to The Tablet (according to the publication’s website). 

In Mr. Goldberg’s previous attempts to write about Hillary (with whom he has, to this day, never spoken or sought to speak), he displayed a fact-free approach to journalism that we found truly unfortunate from someone who works for such a historically august publication as The Atlantic.  In his current effort to portray Flynt (with whom Mr. Goldberg has also never spoken or sought to speak), Mr. Goldberg stoops to a new low in attempted character assassination—a low set by Mr. Smith.  Mr. Smith’s “article” is chock full of unsubstantiated statements and  fabricated allegations.  For the record, we would like to respond to these unsubstantiated statements and fabricated allegations lies here. 

We will start by quoting the paragraphs from Mr. Smith’s article which Mr. Goldberg reprints in his post: 

“The opposition camp has been critical of Leverett for his collaborations with Mohamed Marandi, director of Tehran University’s Institute for North American Studies and the son of Khamenei’s personal physician, who appears to have facilitated Leverett’s upcoming visit. “The University of Tehran is the institution which has applied for our visas,” Leverett explained to me.

Leverett was offended when I asked if the Revolutionary Guard had played a role in his invitation, and yet there’s little doubt that his co-author is personally and professionally close to the regime–and publicly justifies some of its most brutal actions. Since the June elections, Marandi has been the Ahmadinejad government’s key spokesperson in the English-language media, and he recently defended the regime’s sentencing opposition members to death. His true occupation may be even more unsavory. “He passes himself off as an academic, but he’s with the Ministry of Intelligence,” says Ramin Ahmadi, co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentary Center and a professor of medicine at Yale.”

Where to begin?!  By way of background, we should inform our readers that we are planning a trip to the Middle East next week.  Our itinerary includes Beirut and Damascus.  If our application for visas is approved, we might also be going to Tehran.  (As Middle East specialists, we travel to the Middle East multiple times each year.  We have been wanting to visit Iran for some time, and accepted an invitation from the University of Tehran to do so.)  It seems strange to us that people we don’t know have become so interested in our travel plans of late.  Mr. Smith is certainly very focused on the subject.  He bizarrely asserts that “Western scholars and policy wonks alike understand that access to the [Iranian] regime is a form of currency that can make you powerful or rich or both…all see access to the Iranian regime as the biggest prize in the foreign policy game”.   

Considering the amount of grief we have to put up with because we actually want to talk to Iranians, including government officials, both inside Iran and outside the country, we are tempted to conclude that Mr. Smith is describing some parallel universe to the one that we live in.  We don’t know of a single “Western scholar” or “policy wonk” (and we know a lot of people in both categories) who thinks that access to the Iranian regime is going to make them powerful, rich, or both. 

To return to the passages quoted by Mr. Goldberg, Mr. Smith’s claim that Flynt was “offended” when Smith asked if the Revolutionary Guard had played a role in our invitation from the University of Tehran is not accurate.  What Mr. Smith asked Flynt—and we quote from the email in which he asked it—was “to check information I have from two sources that your trip was facilitated via Muhammad Marandi on behalf of the IRGC”.  What offended Flynt was Smith’s claim that he had two sources telling him this nonsense.  There was no way that other human beings to whom Smith would have access could have been telling him this except that they made it up; alternatively, Smith himself made up his two “sources”.  Under either scenario, Smith is peddling lies. 

Regarding our “collaboration” with Mohammad Marandi—a professor of literature who, indeed, directs the University of Tehran’s Institute for North American Studies—we have written one article with him.  We remain quite proud of this article, which we believe should be viewed now and will be viewed in retrospect as one of the seminal pieces of fact-based analysis of Iranian politics in the wake of the Islamic Republic’s June 2009 presidential election.  We think that Mohammad’s analyses of Iranian politics and U.S.-Iranian relations are informed, interesting, and important.  We count him among our Iranian friends (we have friends across the political spectrum in Iran.)  It is execrable that Mr. Smith would print an unsubstantiated assertion that Mohammad is working for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry; Mr. Smith clearly did so with the sole aim of demeaning Mohammad.  We certainly have no reason to believe that Mohammad is anything other than what he says he is.  The statement by Dr. Ahmadi—a well-known expatriate advocate of regime change in Iran—that Mohammad is working for the Iranian Intelligence Ministry is completely unsourced.  Unless Dr. Ahmadi has his own employment relationship with Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, he would have no basis for knowing whether Mohammad or anyone else was on the Ministry’s payroll.  We hope that Mr. Smith misquoted Dr. Ahmadi.  But, we are learning that a disappointingly high percentage of those who want to apply the Iraq model of regime change to Iran seem to think that there is nothing wrong with lying in order to discredit their opponents.   

We also can’t resist responding to Mr. Smith’s references to Mohammad’s father, because they show so well how utterly disinterested Mr. Smith—and Mr. Goldberg—are in basic, factual truth.  There is a clear implication in Mr. Smith’s “article” that, because Alireza Marandi is Khamenei’s “personal physician”, then his son Mohammad’s integrity must be suspect.  Now, we have never met Dr. Marandi.  However, the claim that he is Khamenei’s “personal physician” seems strange given that Dr. Marandi is known both in Iran and the United States as a highly regarded pediatrician, specializing in neonatology—the care of premature infants and other newborns.  (Surely, Ayatollah Khamenei can find a competent internist somewhere in Iran).  Dr. Marandi—who lived for several years in the United States before returning to Iran after the 1979 revolution—did serve as health minister under then-Prime Minister Mousavi and then-President Rafsanjani.  He is widely known for his careful promotion of birth control in Iran, which has helped to lower the country’s historically very high rate of population growth (during his tenure as health minister, Iran allowed the U.S.-based Population Council to operate there).  Even The New York Times reported on Dr. Marandi’s leadership in this area.  (Did Mr. Smith even bother with a Google search on Dr. Marandi?  Are Messrs. Smith and Goldberg interested in and capable of accessing even the most basic factual data about their subjects?)  Since leaving his post as health minister, Dr. Marandi has also been one of Iran’s leading advocates of breast feeding.  If we actually get to go to Iran, we would look forward to meeting Dr. Marandi, as well as seeing his son again.   

The portions of Mr. Smith’s “article” that are not directly quoted by Mr. Goldberg contain an even higher concentration of lies and basic factual errors.  Frankly, we do not want to take the time to correct every single one of them.  However, we do want to address two that are particularly relevant to discussions of U.S. policy toward Iran.  One of Mr. Smith’s bigger lies is that we fabricated the “legend” that Iran sent in a “grand bargain” offer through Swiss intermediaries and peddled this false story to boost our standing as Iran experts.  This claim is dishonest on at least three levels. 

  • First, there is the question of physical reality—there was, indeed, a document from the Iranians that came to the State Department via the Swiss (Switzerland is the “protecting power” for the United States in Tehran, where there is no U.S. diplomatic representation).  That document was reported on by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post in 2007 (link is here).  The link to a pdf of the document that the Post also published along with the story appears not to be easily accessible anymore from the Post’s website.  However, it can be accessed on Steve Clemons blog, The Washington Note, from a post that Steve wrote on the Glenn Kessler story (link here)–go to the part where Steve writes, “Here is a PDF of the actual “Roadmap” faxed by Guldimann”).  The document captured in that PDF is the document we read at the State Department after it had been sent in by the Swiss.  Now, of course, one may argue that the document would not have been a good basis for U.S.-Iranian negotiations (we obviously disagree with those arguments), but the document exists.  That Mr. Smith claims to have found an (anonymous) NSC staffer who was at the White House after we left and who says he never saw this document does not alter the reality of the document’s existence.  (We know for a fact that the document was sent from the State Department to the NSC.  What happened to it after that we cannot address, as we were no longer working at the White House at that time.) 

 

  • Second, Mr. Smith is not telling the truth when he claims that we lied about the document coming from the Iranians, since, in his parallel universe, the document—which, you will remember, never existed in the first place, according to Mr. Smith—was really written by the Swiss ambassador in Tehran at the time.  The Swiss ambassador’s cover letter that came in with the Iranian document—and which you can read yourself as part of the PDF referenced above–about how he received the document from the Iranian side couldn’t be clearer.  Maybe one doesn’t want to believe him, or one thinks he was duped.  But there is no way to say that the document was a substantive (if not a physical) fabrication without having tested the basic proposition that the text was sent to the United States by the Iranians as a basis for negotiations.  And that, in fact, is something the Bush Administration declined to do—as Secretary Powell, Richard Haass, and other senior Bush Administration officials have publicly confirmed. 

 

Another of Mr. Smith’s canards that is categorically false is that Flynt was fired from the National Security Council because “his desk was notoriously messy” and for other administrative deficiencies.  Three months before Flynt left the NSC, the White House publicly announced that it was promoting him, from acting senior director for Middle East affairs to senior director.  (Shortly before this, Flynt’s home agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, from which he was seconded to the NSC staff, promoted him to the Senior Intelligence Service, the equivalent of promotion to general-grade rank in the uniformed military.)  Flynt’s desk was messy when he was promoted to SIS rank.  His desk was messy when then-national security adviser Condoleeza Rice promoted him to full-fledged senior director status.  Why would she have promoted Flynt after he had been at the NSC for almost a year, only to decide a few weeks later that his desk was unacceptably messy and his work of unacceptably poor quality? 

No one disputes the facts that Flynt was strongly critical of the direction of the Bush Administration’s policies on a number of Middle East issues, and concluded, in the end, that he could not stay on at the NSC to promote these policies.  Mr. Smith may have found a neoconservative alumnus of the Bush NSC or Secretary Rumsfeld’s staff who continues to be in denial about the serious policy debates at the time, and wants to dismiss Flynt’s critique of the Bush Administration’s policies by telling stories about a messy desk.  (The Tablet does not disclose that Mr. Smith is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, where his colleagues include Doug Feith—the former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy who, in the run up to the Iraq war, peddled false (indeed, fabricated) information about an alleged but nonexistent relationship between Saddam Husayn and Al-Qa’ida—and Norman Podhoretz, one of the founding fathers of the “Bomb Iran” movement.)

Mr. Smith’s “article” is nothing but a gossip column meant to undermine a genuine debate in the United States about what is in America’s interests in the Middle East and how best to deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Mr. Smith asserts at the end of his “article” that we have become “instruments through which the [Iranian] regime might influence Washington”.  That statement is categorically untrue and nothing more than a blatant attempt at character assassination.    

This kind of McCarthyite tactic was used by Mr. Goldberg, among others, in the run up to the Iraq war, in a largely successful effort to ensure that there was no serious questioning of the lies about Iraqi WMD and links to Al Qaida that Mr. Goldberg, among others, worked hard to disseminate. We will continue to do our best to ensure that Mr. Goldberg, Mr. Smith, and others like them do not get away with such profound and dangerous dishonesty this time around.       

 –Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

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78 Responses to “EXPLAINING THE CONCEPT OF “LIES” TO JEFFREY GOLDBERG (AND LEE SMITH)”

  1. Alan says:

    Fiorangela – thanks for your reply. I’m not a huge believer in the financial side of things, which isn’t to say you’re wrong of course, but the hegemonic angle is definitely up there.

    I have probably said this before, but Israel has basically been a strategic liability for the US since at least 1973. The fiction that they are an asset will be forever revealed if the US and Iran patch up their differences, and the nonsense assertion of “existential threats” will die with it.

    At the end of the day, who is the Lobby? It is, when all is said and done, the American people. The only real way Obama can nail it is if sentiment amongst ordinary Americans changes. Israel is his biggest helper in this regard – their attacks on Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2006 and 2008 mean it takes less to sway Americans now than what it would have taken before. Every extreme act gets more and more attention.

    If it turns out those nasty old Iranians and Palestinians and Lebanese are not the salivating, gun-toting nutcases Americans were told they were, the whole edifice the Lobby has constructed crumbles.

    So Obama’s leverage over Israel becomes, first and foremost, his capacity to put Israel in a situation where they put the goodwill of the US public at risk if they act in an extreme manner. In my parallel universe, I see him withdrawing diplomatic cover for their nefarious deeds, refusing to veto UN resolutions against Israel, and even contributing to the promotion of the Palestinian side of the story in the US.

    They say there’s one born every minute …..

  2. Fiorangela Leone says:

    Alan, I wish your optimism on Obama’s Israel strategy could be contagious; perhaps I read too much Richard Silverstein and Phil Weiss to hope that the Israel lobby can be defanged by anything less than riots in the streets in the US (one can usually figure out what Likudniks are thinking by applying their criticisms of Iran to Israel itself).
    I’m stuck in a mindset that you appear to have avoided: it is my perception that Israel has tossed sand in the gears of US-Iran rapprochement for at least the past 30 years. In my calculus, Israel’s motivations are financial and hegemonic: Israel had realized substantial revenue streams from its oil contracts with Iran, and from weapons sales to Iran, and Iran had the unfortunate virtue of paying its debts on time and in full; Israel is today where Churchill was in 1952: GB had its fists deep in the pockets of Iran’s treasury and resented Mossadeqh’s attempts to extricate them; Israel = same same.
    Israel also wants to the the cock-o-the-walk in the Middle East. Some branches of Judaism have a strong belief in the designation of the Jewish people as those-who-bring-civilization to the benighted folk of fill-in-the-blank. Ian Lustick explained the concept, and the challenge Iran poses to that concept, in this video of a conference in Seattle last December http://www.edmaysproductions.net/webvideo/irannuke.wmv

    Recently I read an allusion to a deal that Dick Cheney is involved in, that links US corporation Westinghouse with a transaction to control Iran’s nuclear technology.

    Paneer, thanks for the links. US fascination with Iran’s green movement makes me a little queasy and brings to mind Romans in the Coliseum, and Augustine’s harsh denunciation of his own and the Roman world’s addiction to the games and to a culture of violence. The Superbowl having had the bad luck of being played out in the midst of a major snowstorm in the NorthEast US, American political leaders need a new ‘circus’ to distract the masses: Iran fills the bill with the added benefit of coming at no cost whatsoever to American politicos.

  3. Iranian says:

    Liz, I think that almost everyone now accepts that the rallies celebrating the victory of Iran’s Islamic Revolution were truly massive and that the greens suffered a humiliating defeat.

  4. Liz says:

    Paneer, Don’t write nonsense. I’ve seen the live footage on Aljazeera and Press TV. The pro-Islamic Republic demonstrations were absolutely massive and there is no denying it.

  5. Alan says:

    Humble apologies rFJk – I assume you realise I wasn’t talking to somebody else when I posted replies to rJFk ….

  6. Alan says:

    rjfk – I think if he wants success in Afghanistan/Pakistan, his policies need to change very quickly, because they simply won’t work. I got the distinct impression he was bounced into the surge there, and felt he needed to fudge it a bit for the greater causes elsewhere. Pakistan will not take on the Afghan Taliban, no matter how nicely Obama asks. The only real possibility of a long term solution is a Kashmir deal that frees the space for a comprehensive regional deal that includes Iran and India.

    In Iran, we are definitely on their time as you say. There are signs of peace amongst the elite again which could augur well for a deal, but I suppose we have to see how Feb 11 plays through the system.

    On I/P, it seems to me Obama can’t stand Netanyahu, and others such as Jim Jones do not trust Israel one inch. Also, Obama has Palestinian contacts beyond Abbas which is very important. There is a lot of talk at the moment of a new US initiative waiting in the wings that effectively sets a defined endpoint to I/P negotiations, but it depends on two things – firstly Hamas/Fatah reconciliation, secondly leverage over the Israelis, because it would be dead on arrival without it. Doing business with Iran gives him that for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps he can then start to unwind some of the power of the Lobby and their allies, because until he does that nothing will really change.

    I get the feeling you’re right about the Obama kind of President. I think he is almost inscrutable, which of course means he could be bad or good, but it does give the impression that he is getting his ducks in a row before he strikes. At the end of the day his real enemies are at home, and if he conjures up a way of dealing with them then he really will be the one who made a difference.

  7. b says:

    @Paneer

    “If government-sponsored, why haven’t they made it into the badly underpopulated square, given that the satphoto claims to be from 10:47 AM? Was it too early or just standard Iranian tardiness?”

    Because Ahmedinjad’s speech started only after 11:00 and at 10:47 people were coming off the march and streamed into the square.

  8. rfjk says:

    Alan

    I too agree with your premises, but I believe Obama has to back off the I/P issue until his next term.

    He can’t claim victory in Iraq, because the ‘realists’ were the foreign policy faction who turned defeat into something short of victory after the neocons fell flat on their faces, and before Obama took office. He can and is continuing those polices and can claim future successes as Iraq normalizes and US/Iraqi relations improve.

    Afghandistan and Pakistan are his biggest nuts to crack, and if his policies succeed there before the mid terms next year he will have validated his foreign policy credentials.

    We are on Iran time regarding any movement in relations with that state. But things could change course on a dime for the better, giving Obama another feather in his cap.

    Obama is the forerunner of a new kind of president in a much more expansive and powerful chief executive branch. In many ways he has already made history and his presidency may be ranked among those that marked major transformations in US history.

  9. rfjk says:

    Alan said:

    “Iran needs to keep all of them out I think.”

    Bingo!

    The Iranians aren’t stupid and have been living in this neck of the woods for thousands of years. They have a lot of experience with all their neighbors and is a big reason many Iranians would prefer better relations with the US so as to play all 3 of the great powers to their advantage. Liked or not, the Iranians are a regional hegemon in the Middle East and demand to be respected on that score and why the Iranians won’t put all their eggs in one basket.

  10. Alan says:

    rjfk – I couldn’t agree more, not least because Obama needs an Iran deal before he can do anything further on Palestine, and no strategic change will be possible for US Middle East policy until he can begin to neutralise Israel. That is something he has to do within the next 12-18 months (unless he is prepared to risk re-election over it, and he may well have a greater impact on history if he did).

  11. Alan says:

    I don’t see the point in arguing the toss over this 2003 memo. It simply followed on from the Iranian assistance over Afghanistan in 2001, and several direct Iranian approaches in 2002, where the rejection was indisputable because the US officials involved relate the negative response of the highest Bush officials.

    The Iranians had been pushing for an extended period of time to get a dialogue going with the US. This issue in 2003 was just another episode in a rather long saga of rejection, which actually went on well into 2006 (at which point the Iranians finally gave up).

  12. rfjk says:

    Ghorob

    I forgot to address my latest post to you.

  13. rfjk says:

    I am going to agree this isn’t 2003 or for that matter 1972. Those geopolitical environments don’t exist anymore.

    The US is permanently engaged in the M/E due to the blunder of 19 Mar 2003 and the Iranians are going to have to deal with that fact. That means sooner or latter the US and Iran are going to have to sit down and decide where their interests coincide and diverge for all the reasons you stipulated. A grand bargain or rapprochement with Iran can happen at any time. Just because its not doable at this exact moment doesn’t mean it can’t happen tomorrow. The Leverett’s must obviously think the same because they haven’t given up the fight and are wisely doing what ‘realists’ did and accomplished regarding the neocons. They are intelligently opposing domestic & foreign enemies of a grand bargain or rapprochement with Iran, and placing themselves in a position to influence events within the administration when this current batch of closet/losers proselytizing war, regime change and sanctions upon the Obama regime fall flat on their faces. The Leverett’s are making damn certain they will be there to help pick up the pieces.

    Fantasies of military operations or Iranian regime change are the pixie dust snorted by some Iranian expats, Zionists, Israelis, neocons and their closeted brethren like Richard Haass, who is that teams point man for a vigorous sanctions regime. Currently, in the absence of any meaningful engagement with the Iranians, team Obama is indulging in such rhetoric too. After all, since they are trying to get the Russkies and Chi Comm Charlies on board additional UN sanctions they do have to talk like they mean it. The fact is they really don’t, because they literally oppose any serious sanctions legislation pursued by certain whacked out constituencies in the US Congress. Its my hunch Obama and his crew are banking on Russia and China bulking, or just approving another round of ineffective sanctions. All diplomacy and politics is theater and an observer must see beyond the masks and facades of the stage.

    For team Obama the sticking point is Iranian internal affairs. The Leverett’s are dead right the opposition and its leadership cannot overthrow the present IRI. Its also obvious the opposition currently has no intention of regime change and supports many of the Iranian governments policies and goals. The problem as I see it is a serious disagreement among Iranians over the nature of their Islamic republic and need for reforms. And this disagreement isn’t all this or all that, its multifaceted with many faces and factions arguing across the landscape of Iranian politics. Until the Iranians solve or better manage this argument among themselves, all the Obama administration can do is mark and play for time, while fending off or misleading its enemies and the opportunism by our own set of maniacs who are lining up behind the closet neocon/ Zionist Richard Haass.

  14. Paneer says:

    Don’t confuse Iranian’s ademant aversion to a savage civil war with the support for the regime. Even the most hard cord anti-IRI in Iran do not want a sudden regime change or a revolution because they know it would lead to an uspeakable bloodshed. They call it “bradar koshi”, meaning brother will kill brother. Iranians are keenly observant of danger of a civil war precisely because the IRI has been so barbaric for the past 31 years; there are just too many scores to be settled in case of a sudden combustion into a revolution.

  15. Paneer says:

    Fiorangela: This is a must read article. Since you seem to be the only one who doesn’t have a self-serving agenda.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/02/-opinion-many-had.html

    Yesterday, I downloaded an uncropped 13MB image of Azadi Sq. and its environs from the following site:

    http://www.geoeye.com/CorpSite/gallery/detail.aspx?iid=294&gid=20

    While attendance inside the square is pitiful, there are solid, unbroken masses of people visible on kilometers of roads and highways leading south, east and north from the square.

    Eastwards on Azadi Street, large crowds stretch to the limits of the photo at the Yadegar Emam intersection.

    Near the second skybridge on Ashrafi Esfahani, leading north from Azadi Square to Sadeghieh, a large column of smoke is rising.

    Can someone shed light on who the people outside the square are? If government-sponsored, why haven’t they made it into the badly underpopulated square, given that the satphoto claims to be from 10:47 AM? Was it too early or just standard Iranian tardiness? If the crowds are greens, why all this despondency about their failure to show up?

    Mr. Leverette: Here is leverage for you in negotiating the American’s interests…

  16. Paneer says:

    If the war option is off the tabl then it follows that there will not be a need for a ‘grand bargain’ in the eyes of the IRGC commandars. Leverettes will be confirming that notion after their trip from Iran.

  17. Paneer says:

    The other article is probably written by a Jewish American living in Los Angles but some commenters have suggested that it’s written by the IRI cyber goons from VEVAK to pit Israelis and Iranians against each other further…

    ISRAEL
    A question of survival
    Understand why Jews must support Israel’s right to strike Iran’s nuclear plants

    by rwitonsk

    http://www.iranian.com/main/2010/feb/question-survival

  18. Paneer says:

    Fiorangela: The identity of the author is unknown. Where does it say that he/she is from Tel Aviv??

    I’m talking about this blog:

    http://www.iranian.com/main/blog/hr/case-invasion-iran

  19. kooshy says:

    The biggest “Latefeh” joke that now is circulating around in Washington and affiliated media before the Iraq pullout of this coming summer is that “we have achieved all our goals in Iraq” coming out of the VP and seconded by previous VP Cheney this is funny because the 2 sides are debating who this victory belongs to but refuse to explain to the American people who have lost over 4000 lives and trillions of dollars what this victory is. What the American action has brought is that they have lost Iraq forever because they have lost the hearts and minds. When Mr. Biden or any other western politician or high ranking military personnel can visit Iraq in a pre announced plan they might be able to claim that we can now travel to Iraq like a head of state and not a fugitive. Otherwise they are just trying to convince the American people that your sacrifice was not wasted and to give a boost to their demoralized armed forces.

  20. Fiorangela Leone says:

    Paneer – I read the item in Iran.com and the comments, too. The comments mentioned that the author of “The Case for Invasion of Iran” lives in Tel Aviv. True?

  21. Alan says:

    Ghorob – really interesting posts. I agree with both you and rjfk in that Iraq was a rather terrifying meeting of US and Israeli minds more than the US doing Israel’s bidding. Not so Iran – I can’t remember which US politician it was that said “the US views Iran through spectacles made in Israel”.

    You are absolutely right – where is the leverage? It seems the US has a choice – use Iran as the testing ground for a new cold war with China, or give up the adversarial approach altogether. Iran seems to need the plates for the TRR, it is the only obvious short term leverage the US has, but it is also something the US, not Iran, could alternatively use to engender trust and a positive way forward. If they did, I suspect Iran would see considerable benefit in maintaining the US as a friend in the future; not necessarily more so than China, Russia or India, but not less so either.

    Iran needs to keep all of them out I think.

  22. Paneer says:

    Oh, BTW, Enjoy your echo chamber; holding hands…

  23. Paneer says:

    Ghorob: I just read your silly comment again and realized that you think I wrote that article…I did not write any of those articles. And I did not ask anyone else by Wigwag to read it…so, you might want to take your ranting and raving to IC. Or you wouldn’t dare to post your nonsense drivel at IC???

    I never advocted war and you can check the archives of this site and explained why? Frankly, I don’t care what quisling Aghazadeh like you thinks…

  24. Ghorob says:

    rfjk:

    I don’t know what you meant by “useless jabbering”!: so arrogant!

    anyway, i am a student, not a politician and i am not going to define policies. so i don’t mind to ask. btw, thanks a lot for your answer. i have another question to ask though.

    let’s take your words of two options: conquest and “grand bargain”. the former is out, or it was probably available till end of 2005, but isn’t the latter also out of option based on what we even see here? it might be true that Iran felt it’s time to bargain in 2003 for the opposite reason Washington turned down the offer as it is the main theme of this post. whether it was fear or not, we may probably never know.

    the question is why should Iran bargain at this time? the issues addressed in that offer are out now. as the U.S has not made any credible incentives, it seems your second option is almost out. the point is, having crossed the point of breakout, Iran can no longer get back to the 2003 situation. it’s true that Iran and U.S’s interests are somehow divergent in the Persian Gulf, but it doesn’t seem to be the case for the central asia, Iraq, Afghanistan and the wider middle east IF the lobby we all know is not the case. Israel probably was not the motive of Iraq invasion, as you also said so, but it seems to be a big obstacle for the U.S-Iran corporation. Iran’s Arabs immediate neighbors, except Saudi, are either ok or at least have cordial, like UAE, relationship with Iran. the U.S-Iran rapprochement wouldn’t make them that uneasy.

    or let say this, if the grand bargain is also out, what is remained on the table? what concession China made to the U.S in 1972?

  25. Paneer says:

    Eric E. Brill…Yawn. Don’t bother replying. I will not read it…

  26. Paneer says:

    Obviously your are ranting and raving about nothing because you can’t read…I did not say “persian”.. and I’m fully aware of Iran’s ethnic make up. I will not reply to your tirades anymore…

    “We Iranians are the most gracious hosts and our hospitality is legendary but don’t be fooled…”

  27. kooshy says:

    The term Persian is consistently use by the western propaganda planers and their “Persian” cronies with hope of creating a division whiten Iranian society.
    This hasn’t made a dent so far, this same group refuses to call the body of waters south of Iran with its historic name “Persian Gulf” that too hasn’t made a dent in last 40 years. This folks consistently are making mistake of confusing Iran a historic nation of common culture with made up countries of post WW2 mostly off springs of Ottoman and India empires. Basically the western policy planers and their intelligence apparatus do not have any ideas left how to contain Iran and bring a turn around.
    From the propaganda that comes out of NYT, WP, CNN, BBC etc. people who fallow the chain series of articles and arguments will reach a conclusion of desperation. To understand this you should want to read David Ignatius article in today’s WP that is a beauty policy and argument. To conclude US policy toward Iran and the Middle East just like US economy is currently in chapter 7 in needs of a desperate bailout. Arguing about the events of 2003 and who lied will not pull this polices out their mental, moral and physical bankruptcy

  28. rfjk says:

    Ghorob.

    After a slurry of useless jabbering you have asked the only meaningful question on this site. The fact you haven’t been answered is due to wrong headed misconceptions among leftists the US lost the war in Iraq. As you have observed the outcome is a far cry from defeat. And you correctly recognize Russia and China are US competitors over the last great oil grab of the 21st century, the new great game. Whether liked or not by US leftists, antiwar types and defeatists, the M/E and central Eurasia are the most important geopolitical regions on the globe due to its immense hydrocarbon reserves. The strategic, natural resources of the age that are vital to the survival of any high tech, industrial state is solely why the US and everyone else is meddling in this puddle, especially China.

    We aren’t up to our necks in the M/E solely due to Israel as Jew haters breathlessly pander. Though Zionist and Likudnik espionage and brazen interference in US politics is a serious matter, had also contributed considerably to stooging the US into attacking Iraq and undoubtedly the worst offender among foreign lobbies and their front groups, its important to keep in mind there are many foreign entities engaged in lobbying the US government, not just Israel. And the principal reason for that is because of the nature and structures of US republican governance that allows it in the first place. That will lead to an entirely different discussion, but the neocons were basically the fall guys for an establishment policy that went wrong. Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld are ultra-nationalists, members of the US war party that infests both demos and repubs and the broader public/private establishment of US power. It also didn’t help that hubris was running high across all the public landscapes of America in the post cold war period.

    What the US lost was the unwarranted illusion of global power and reach after the fall of the USSR. If I am not mistaken, I believe it was James Baker who opined “there, but by the grace of god go we.” This delusion of US omnipotence was also shared by the wider global community of nations too. These notions of “unipolarity” and the US as the “essential nation” in global affairs had its origins in the 1990′s time frame, a complete and total rejection of any limits to American power. An accident in the making just begging and waiting to happen. Had Clinton gave the battle order for the invasion of Serbia these fantasies of US global hegemony would have died in the mountains of the Balkans instead of the sands of Iraq. At least in that regard, Bubba can be accused of being a little smarter than Bush and the republicans, even though there weren’t too many people running around in Washington D.C. who could be accused of having a brain during the Clinton regime either.

    If there was any time or window of opportunity in attacking Iran it was immediately after the fall of Baghdad. If your going to gamble the farm and all the world and everything in it on one throw of the dice, than you had best go the whole 9 yards and than some. But the authors of the “The road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad” weren’t fit for what they lusted for, cracking up and balking at the decisive moment like their Israeli brethren a few yards into Lebanon and against HAMAS fighters in Gaza city.

    Tehran was and remains the key to the whole region. There are only two alternatives for securing US interests in the region, conquest or a grand bargain. The former expired shortly after the fall of Baghdad and like looking a gift horse in the mouth is gone forever (if it were ever possible in the first place). The latter is the only option for all the reasons the Leverett’s have patiently explained and the likely outcome. There are of course lots of other reasons, but I view the few above as some of the major and best answers to your question.

  29. Eric A. Brill says:

    To Paneer:

    I read your iranian.com blog (“The Case for an Invasion of Iraq”). The article starts out like this:

    “For over three decades, the Iranian people have been held hostage by a brutal and oppressive regime of Islamic fundamentalists. They savagely brutalize and imprison their citizenry without due process of law, and in some cases, even out right kill their political opponents in public view.”

    I thought the author would have more to say about those serious charges. Turns out that was it: they were not propositions to be proven, but simply premises.

    Forgive me for not finishing the whole article, but I think I pretty much got the gist of it from the title and those two sentences.

  30. Ghorob says:

    Paneer:

    I intended not to answer you at all. you just waste one’s time with your bashing comments (we are sick of hearing these types of comments for almost 3 decades. say something new). and it’s clear what your objection is: removing IR by any means, war or otherwise doesn’t matter.

    but the post you put here is in the category of racism itself. Persian, Persian…Persian people and “Persian secular democrats”. who are they! it’s a bizarre claim. that reminds me of the racist Iranian expatriates monarchies in LA. in my more than 20 years of living in Iran, i have never heard that we are Persian people! (I got a master degree from there!). actually, I first heard of the notion of “we are Persian people” here abroad, and after years of hearing it from exiled Iranians, I still feel uncomfortable to be called Persian. Iran is made up of several races, tribes, and clans including Fars, however it’s almost impossible to distinguish who is Fars and who is not, and actually ordinary people don’t care. you never hear in the TV, newspaper…from politicians… that we are Persian people. this seems to be a deliberated act on the part of people like you and the author of this article to desperately make a veg between the Iranian population.

    the country’s name, as you well know, was Persia from 6th BC to 1935 ((La Perse, Persien, Perzie,…)(Persia, Parse.. is the word Greeks used to called Iranians. inside the country it was always called Iran by the people. as an example, look at Ferdowsi’s epics which are for 1000 years ago). the official language, that every Iranian knows, is called Farsi or Persian though. it’s like saying we are English or British people in the U.S!

    so, tell your “Persian secular democrats” racist friends to think twice whenever they make comments about Iran!

  31. Paneer says:

    Israel Violates Economic Sanctions Against Iran
    by Juan Cole:

    Israel Violates Economic Sanctions Against Iran by Grant Smith — Antiwar.com

    Economic sanctions don’t produce regime change in and of themselves. They mainly hurt the little people in places like Cuba or Iraq. And, they create black markets for the unscrupulous.

    Obama Iran sanctions another buying opportunity for the Marc Riches of the world.

    http://www.juancole.com/2010/02/israel-violates-economic-sanctions.html

  32. Paneer says:

    Wigwag:

    I invite you to join our discusion here as well. Thanks.

    A Case for Invasion of Iran

    http://www.iranian.com/main/blog/hr/case-invasion-iran

    Please Read the comments too, very important…

    Thanks.

  33. Paneer says:

    Dear Wigwag: Great response. Crying over spilled milk…Khamenie is no longer in charge….

    I invite you to join us in these important discussions at IC:

    ISRAEL
    A question of survival
    Understand why Jews must support Israel’s right to strike Iran’s nuclear plants

    by rwitonsk
    13-Feb-2010 (35 comments)
    http://www.iranian.com/main/2010/feb/question-survival

  34. Paneer says:

    “”The only governments that fear their “governed” are ones based on repression and oppression of people’s rights which the enlightened among us regard as universal.

    That repressive regimes can last for decades is proven by the instances of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea and Myanmar.

    You can only keep the lid on such a society as long as you maintain a coopted segment of society by dispensing government largesse, ideally to include the military,(in case of Iran IRGC and *Basij) and employing censorship and strict policing of people’s everyday lives who, though not recipients of windfall payments, are in one or more ways economically dependent on the government in power to live day-to-day.

    The only people who laud these repressive societies, with their tight control of everything from what you are allowed to do for a living to what to wear and what to say before you urinate or as you breathe your last are those who benefit materially from them (the “more equals” among the masses of “equals”), or people who can’t deal with unstructured environments, as for example our Muslim brothers in Western Europe who are woefully under equipped, both in terms of practical education and mindset, to succeed in a free society,

    where at once the individual is both free and required to make these choices for themselves. Those who can’t seek out “authority figures” to decide for them. See North, Central and South American criminal gangs for plentiful examples of this type of person, who longs for the structure and sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself offered by a gang (or by analogy, perhaps, by the Basij or fundamentalist jihad groups?) or life in a maximum security prison.

    Eventually the costs of maintaining strict control over all aspects of society bring about the failure of these oppressive regimes; the only matter is how long it takes, depending, among other reasons, on the revenue flowing to the government – when your country is awash in oil export revenue, controlled by the government, “”

    by Homayoun

    source: Comment section of

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/02/-opinion-many-had.html

    *Basij et al (Aabad garan, Ansare Hizbollah, etc.): One in every 7 or 8 Iranians is a memeber of these group. Their entire livelihood is wholly subsidized by the regime in exchange for loyalty, spying, brutalizing, killing, torturing the Iranian people. Every neighborhood in Iran has at least a few of these Basiji operatives and informants who spy and keep a file on the activities of the rest of the neighborhood…

    I hope when Leverettes go to Iran, they won’t be seduced by the hospitality of the Iranians. We Iranians are the most gracious hosts and our hospitality is legendary but don’t be fooled…

  35. Fiorangela Leone says:

    Ghorob, excellent question and observations.

    Several days ago CASMII posted on its website several articles discussing Germany’s extensive investment (particularly in railways) in the Arabian Peninsula/Gulf states, as well as Germany’s sale to Israel of a submarine (the sixth built by a German company for Israel) that is intended to patrol the Persian Gulf. The goal of these two actions is to create a new route, via Red Sea, for Iraqi and Arabian oil, and of further isolating Iran. I think this is extraordinarily significant — the equal of Henry the Navigator’s maritime challenge to Silk Road trade patterns.

    At the same time Angela Merkel was bruting Germany’s deals with the Arab states and salivating over the profits expected to flow into the German economy, Barack Obama madde a gesture to secure the (largely Jewish) Florida vote by committing $8.5 borrowed federal dollars to build a hi-speed rail system from Tampa to Walt Disney world.
    Not only must the US borrow the money to fund that start-up project, it will have to buy the technology from Europe and Asia. The US has the most advanced weapons in the world, and invests more than the rest of the world combined in its military and defense industries, but it does not have the financial heft or the educational and technological depth on the bench to build its own infrastructure much less compete with other nations as those other nations reap the rewards of US military action in Iraq.

    You’re correct, the Iraq war may be seen as a success (excepting, of course, that little Iran thingy)– in this case, the operation was a success but the doctor died.

  36. JohnH says:

    It’s obviously Wigwag’s job to undermine the Leveretts’ credibility. But the only thing that this latest, long winded post proves is that the Bush administration was not at all interested in pursuing better relations with Iran. But we already knew that. If the administration had any interest, they would have at least sent some feelers out. It matters not who started the effort–maybe the Swiss ambassador saw and opportunity to jump start better relations–or maybe it came from the Iranians. But the point, already well known, is that the Bush administration was absolutely not interested. They were more interested in military solutions to each and every problem.

    So what is Wigwag’s point?

    The main point remains the same. An interesting lead came in. Bush’s people refused to lift a finger to pursue it.

  37. Eric A. Brill says:

    Fiorangela Leone wrote:

    “Regarding Armitage’s dismissing of the memo as, perhaps having been written by unsubtle Swiss broker/diplomats, again, So what?”

    Excellent post. I just wanted to comment on this.

    I didn’t mean to open a can of worms with this observation. I hope it’s clear I support everything the Leveretts are trying to accomplish and that I have no doubt that WigWag and Lee Smith and anyone else who attacks them are off base in raising any question about their integrity. I believe I’ve written enough in their defense to make that clear. And I also owe the Leveretts, and everyone on this board, an apology for distracting the Leveretts from their more important work, just as WigWag has done.

    My point is only that, if both memos, or at least the existence of multiple versions, were known to Armitage, who also claimed to have independent doubts about the Iranians’ sincerity, he may have had good reasons for disagreeing with the Leveretts on how (or whether) to proceed even if (as I strongly suspect) he agreed with the Leveretts about the wisdom of pursuing a negotiated settlement and that the memo (either version) would have provided a good substantive basis for negotiations.

    The Leveretts have confirmed that only one version of the memo was ever represented to Armitage (or to any official) as the “approved” Iranian version. It’s not uncommon for multiple versions of memos, letters, proposed agreements, articles, briefs or many other types of documents to be floating around at the same time. Some may have preceded the “official” version, some may have followed it and represent someone’s hopeful effort to move the parties closer to agreement when they finally sit down to discuss the “official” version.

    Since the Leveretts have already confirmed that only one “official” version of the memo was presented, it’s already clear to me that the second memo falls into one of these categories; I’d just like to confirm that, and wouldn’t even ask the question if this version hadn’t had enough staying power to have made its way to this website. It was that fact alone that made me think it was worth seeking confirmation that it never actually got presented to State or the White House as having come from Iran.

  38. WigWag says:

    The clarification made by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett on February 13, 2010 at 8:07 pm does provide additional context and serves to bolster their case. It is significantly more responsive to the most serious allegations made against them in the Lee Smith article then their previous comment was. But it is only partially convincing.

    The Leveretts point out that most of the senior diplomats with expertise and responsibility for Iran were distracted by other important issues, most notably Iraq and the Israel-Palestine conflict. The only expert they cite as thinking the fax from the Swiss Ambassador was worth pursuing was Hillary Mann Leverett herself. They also mention that there were only three other midlevel officials working on Iran at the time, but that they were also distracted by issues pertinent to Iraq. If all of this is true, and there is no reason to believe its not, then the only person who thought the fax received from the Swiss Ambassador was provocative was Mann Leverett and not a single other official in the Bush Administration.

    In their response the Leveretts suggest that Armitage was wrong. They say,

    “It is not correct to say that none of the career professionals at State who worked on Iran thought that the document was credible and should be followed up diplomatically by the United States.”

    But in fairness to Armitage, that’s not what he said. What he said was,

    “I’ve seen Flynt Leverett…argue that this was a missed opportunity. But I must say that speaking for me and most of my colleagues at the State Department, we didn’t see it that way, and I don’t think many others did at the time because it didn’t fit with some of the other things… that we’d been hearing from Iran…”

    Armitage referred to himself and “most of his colleagues” not all of his colleagues.

    More importantly, the Leveretts say that Secretary Powell complimented Hillary Mann Leverett on her memo but that he couldn’t sell her approach to the White House. The Leveretts assert that Powell brought her idea to the White House based on the Wilkerson remark that they cite. But assuming Powell brought the Swiss Ambassador’s fax and Mann-Leverett’s memo to the White House at all, they don’t have any idea about the degree of enthusiasm with which Powell presented Mrs. Mann Leverett’s idea. He could easily have presented the idea with little to no enthusiasm. Powell could easily have said that Mann-Leverett’s idea was interesting but that nobody else at State was particularly enthusiastic. If this was the case, why wouldn’t the Cheney’s office balk? Who wouldn’t balk under those circumstances?

    In light of the fact that Powell’s chief deputy (Armitage) was obviously unimpressed with concept presented by the Swiss Ambassador and in light of the fact that he thought the content of the fax represented Ambassador Guildimann’s views more than the views of the Iranian leadership, what reason is there to believe that Secretary Powell presented Mrs. Mann Leveretts recommendations with any gusto? His comment to her that it was a “great memo” provides no evidence that he made any real effort to talk the White House (or the Vice President’s office) into pursuing the strategy that Mann-Leverett advocated.

    The Leveretts have contended all along that the neoconservatives in the Bush Administration deep-sixed a potentially exciting and game-changing offer from the Iranians. But the inevitable conclusion from reading their response is that they now acknowledge that their contention is at best an exaggeration. While they still say that it was the neoconservatives who killed any chance for pursuing a grand bargain in 2003, they admit that skepticism about the legitimacy of the Iranian offer was not limited not just to the neoconservatives, but instead was widespread throughout the entire Bush Administration. They acknowledge that not only were the neoconservatives uninterested in a grand bargain, but that their Bush Administration allies had “considerable ambivalence and uncertainty about the document…”

    In fact, the only official in the entire government that they can cite as having any enthusiasm for the prospect of a grand bargain with Iran in 2003 was Hillary Mann Leverett. No one else in the entire Bush Administration, neoconservative or otherwise, thought that the Iranians had made a bona fide proposal.

    The question that the Leveretts have to confront is why none of their allies in the State Department (with the possible exception of Wilkerson) back up their contention that (1) the Iranians offered a grand bargain and (2) the neoconservatives led by Cheney’s office are responsbile for turning it down.

    Richard Armitage has specifically refuted Flynt Leverett’s assertions about this. Their friend Richard Haass has been noticeably silent. Obviously we have not heard from former Secretary of State Powell and we have conflicting remarks from the voluble Lawrence Wilkerson. Ryan Crocker and William Burns may have been distracted at the time, but if what was viewed as an exciting offer from the Iranians had really been made, it is hard to believe that it wouldn’t have come to their attention. Certainly Crocker and Burns are now aware of the Leveretts theories on all of this; neither of them has done anything to support the Leveretts assertions either.

    One person who could clear some of this up is the loquacious Lawrence Wilkerson. He despises the neoconservatives so he, unlike the others should be motivated to talk. Wilkerson no longer speaks for Secretary Powell, but it is possible that he knows a good deal more about what happened in 2003 than he has told us. Wilkerson regularly does guest posts at the sister blog of the “Race for Iran,” the “Washington Note.” In fact, Wilkerson has done three guests posts at the “Washington Note” since October. Why doesn’t Steve Clemons, who is a friend of the Leveretts but is objective on all of this, interview Lawrence Wilkerson and get the full story to the extent that Wilkerson knows it? Another possibility is that Wilkerson could be invited to do a guest post on the subject.

    One other thing; speaking about the authenticity of the content of the fax passed by the Swiss Ambassador to the U.S. government in 2003 and whether it represented the true thinking of the Iranian leadership, this what the Leveretts say,

    “Since we have left government and been at liberty to meet with a wide range of current and former Iranian officials, many of these individuals have told us that the Iranian document was legitimate and that its transmission had been authorized at the Islamic Republic’s highest levels of authority.”

    What a wide-range of current and former unnamed Iranian government officials have said to the Leveretts since they left government service is at best weak evidence if it is any evidence at all. Who were the officials? What specifically did they say? Were these comments made to the Leveretts early in the decade near to the time when the Iranian offer was supposedly made or are they comments that they’ve heard recently, many years after the offer was conveyed to the State Department?

    The Leveretts complain that many of the accusations made by Lee Smith are either unsourced or based on one or two sources who might be disgruntled. But the same thing can be said about the evidence that they present to prove that the Iranian offer was a legitimate one and not merely a delusion of the Swiss Ambassador.

  39. Ghorob says:

    I have a question here regarding the failure of Iraq war from the U.S perspective and would appreciate if anyone could explain it in detail for me. after all, here is supposed to be weblog to learn not just bashing those people and policies we don’t like.

    before that, let’s clarify that as an Iranian obviously I don’t want to see the U.S attacking Iran, not even a minor sanction is acceptable in my view. and indeed, the U.S can’t at this juncture. Iran is not comparable to Iraq, size, population, warfare ability, geographical location, …and many reason from the U.S perspective not to be able to initiate an attack, it’s stretched army, sky rocketed deficit, the biggest recession in decades, unemployment, moral credibility internally and internationally…and many more. attack Iran through air and get what? what is in there of the U.S (not Israel)?

    why is Iraq war considered to be a failure? if the primary (not the one we saw in the TV about WMD which was sounded like a joke, even for me as the one without virtually any political and military experience, from the very beginning) reasons were to inhibit the infiltration of China and probably Russia in the coming decades and making sure American presence in the heart of the middle east for decades to come, then don’t you think America has achieved that? America is now having access to one of the richest oil field in the world and her foot steps are guaranteed for foreseeable future.

    Is the failure regarded as the damage to the credibility of the U.S (whether it had it at the first glance is questionable)? the U.S’s over spending? loss of relatively small number of troops, ~4000, for a war with that magnitude? or the failure is regarded as the geopolitical rise of Iran? Iran’s success in becoming a nuclear state while the U.S was bogged down there (as the topics and regrets of this post seems to be. it seems, the U.S politicians, from all sides, are talking about a missed opportunity in 2003 on the U.S part mainly, or the perceived one, or the one they would be so happy but really didn’t exist. and now the U.S is out of leverage and has to deal with a far stronger Iran?)? or U.S tied hand in pressuring Saudis?…

    it would be great if one could explain the failure in terms of the U.S interests.

  40. rfjk says:

    John H. said:

    ….”I see that Wigwag has succeeded in distracting the Leveretts from more important matters, so her smear campaign has probably succeeded beyond her wildest imagination…..”

    No, not at all. The Leverett’s are providing an important service not only in elucidating the correct history of events, but also in combating the distortions and outright re-engineering of the historical record by enemies domestic and foreign.

    Prior to 19 March 2003 only one strong voice in the wilderness sounded the alarm regarding Iraq, but retired Gen Odom could and was ignored. The Leverett’s cannot be ignored and explains the campaign of innuendo, savage attacks and smearing levied against them here and elsewhere in the media.

    The Leverett’s are proselytizing a policy approach America’s enemies & traitors fear, and the intensity of the opposition also proves the Leverett’s aren’t alone in that assessment within and without the US government.

  41. Dan cooper says:

    In regards to WigWag‘s attacks on LEVERETTS, I agree with John H’s comments:

    “It’s the usual tactic: when you can’t win on the merits of the argument, attack the messenger, neutralize him, or at least tie him up”

  42. Fiorangela Leone says:

    I have travelled to Iran and had been planning to do so again in April, but I missed the deadline for submitting visa application. I recall from the first trip that the visa process takes a month or more; Pakistani embassy acts for Iran in processing applications. (of course. Leveretts probably have better connections than a mere tourist.) I long for the day when I can purchase a ticket online and fly to Ardebil, or Shiraz, or Mashad, to see and experience what I want to, rather than having to pay the high cost of a rigidly controlled ‘tour’. Drs. Leverett and Mann, do you have room in your luggage for a stowaway?? Iran is an incredibly beautiful place to visit; to spend an hour in one of the magnificent mosques or shrines in Isfehan is to soothe the soul; the monument to Ferdowsi is breathtaking architecture and art; the experience of seeing the men and women of Shiraz gather at the memorials to Hafez and Saadi to read poetry to each other is to begin to understand that some people on this planet still have a sense of what is important in human existence, and to hope with all one’s power that those precious human persons are not destroyed by a culture that worships bombs but not poets.

    I haven’t read every element of WigWag’s latest, but did notice WW is terribly exercised that the Leveretts would communicate with people close to Ahmadinejad. What’s the big deal? Ahmadinejad is the president of Iran, elected by Iranians in a contest that might have been as crooked as the election of George Bush.
    Ahmadinejad as monster is a creation of Israel; the Iranian people regard him in ways that are important to them, for their own needs and purposes.

    Regarding the memo and whether it exists or not: Trita Parsi discusses it in “Treacherous Alliance.” The memo was delivered to the office of Bob Ney, the only Persian-speaking member of Congress at the time; Parsi was an aide to Ney.

    Regarding Armitage’s dismissing of the memo as, perhaps having been written by unsubtle Swiss broker/diplomats, again, So what? We Americans are told that its quite appropriate for Israelis as lobbyists to write America’s laws and executive orders, and that lobbyists bring expertise to the table. If the Swiss did, indeed, write the memo, wouldn’t that be an instance of diplomats doing what good diplomats should do — bring conflicting parties together in as peaceful a manner as possible?

  43. Iranian says:

    The vast majority of Iranians support the Islamic Republic and today the US needs Iran more than ever before. Obviously, those groups, green or not, who have a vested interest in continued crisis will smear anyone who tries to change the situation.

  44. Liz says:

    I have 3 credible sources that say WigWag works for Mossad!

  45. Liz says:

    If a person who defends the IRI and the majority of Iranians is a “regime” spokesman, the “regime” seems to have tens of millions of spokespersons.

  46. Eric A. Brill says:

    Flynt and Hillary,

    Curious as I was, I never suspected I was being censored, and now I understand it was a technical glitch for which I was to blame. I know we have the same values – never doubted that. Nor did I doubt that the WaPo version of the memo is the one the State Department saw, or at least first saw.

    But I still do wonder about a lesser but (at least historically) important point.

    The point made by Armitage and some of the others was that it was hard to tell where the Iran part ended and the Swiss part began. As you undoubtedly know, there’s a tendency among some diplomats – and I really don’t mean you here, I mean the Swiss ambassador – to tweak or trim a bullet-point list just a bit to make it more palatable to the other side, confident while doing so that one will also be able to sell the revised version later to the side ostensibly presenting that bullet-point list. When I read Armitage’s other comment, suggesting that other sources doubted the Iranians’ willingness to talk, and then I see there were (at least) two versions of the memo (which at least beats none: WigWag’s contention), I’m naturally led to wonder whether Armitage and/or others at State also saw more than one version of the memo, or at least were aware that more than one version might exist. If they did, they might well wonder whether the changes reflected another long sit-down with the Supreme Leader, or instead just some imaginative gap-closing ideas the Swiss ambassador typed up on his laptop one night when he was having trouble falling asleep. At the very least, they would insist – or at least I would, if I were Secretary of State – on a very clear explanation of why there was more than one version, which one I should believe reflects the true position of the Iranian government, and why I should believe that. And I’d probably not recommend that my boss – George Bush – get on the horn with the Supreme Leader (or, realistically, that slightly lower-level contacts be initiated) until I’d received some pretty clear answers – especially when others are telling me that the Iranians aren’t really eager to talk, still others are telling me I’m going to end up looking awfully stupid if I go forward without all my ducks in a row, and still others are telling me (see my longer post) that the effort will, in any event, be an utter waste of time because Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld will shoot it down no matter what.

    So, without focusing the question so much that I dissuade you from shedding light on it from all directions: What’s the deal with the two versions of the memo?

    I think you know we share the very same goals and, frankly, whether or not the Iranians were or were not willing to strike a “grand bargain” in 2003 does not, in my mind, shed all that much light on what they might or might not be willing to do today, which is what matters today. But I would like to clear up this confusion in my mind on this historical point.

  47. JohnH says:

    Eric A. Brill: Comments will be held for “moderation” if there are too many links (>2, I think) in them. They then drop off the face of the earth. If you put “[dot}com” instead of “.com” you can still enter the links and avoid “moderation.”

    I see that Wigwag has succeeded in distracting the Leveretts from more important matters, so her smear campaign has probably succeeded beyond her wildest imagination.

    It’s the usual tactic: when you can’t win on the merits of the argument, attack the messenger, neutralize him, or at least tie him up.

  48. Dear Eric, We’re not sure why 2 of your comments were “held”. We don’t restrict comments. As for your question about the 2 roadmaps (one posted by the Washington Post and accessible via the Steve Clemons link we provide and one at armscontrol.org), the Washington Post one is accurate–in other words, it is the version that actually came in to the State Department in the Spring of 2003. The armscontrol.org one is NOT the one that came in to the State Department from the Swiss. It was an error that the armscontrol.org one was posted on our site and we are seeking to rectify that now. Thanks and best regards, Flynt and Hillary

  49. Eric A. Brill says:

    http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/documents/us_iran_roadmap.pdf


    That’s the actual link to the document. Worth reading, though I can’t help being surprised that anyone would have been optimistic about it going anywhere at that time. “Support for the Iranian claims for Iraqi reparation [in connection with the Iran-Iraq war]” — please. I could go on, but make your own judgments. Bush had barely hung his “Mission Accomplished” flight suit in the closet. Even if Powell was still compos mentis at the time (an assumption I forever ceased making after his UN presentation in February 2003), he had about as much influence on Bush/Cheney as a twice-castrated eunuch, and Armitage had about as much influence as a highly regarded right-hand man to a twice-castrated eunuch. As I vaguely recall, Judith Miller was still breathlessly chasing after Army jeeps and reporting that a cache of WMD was just around the next corner. The odds of us even discussing, much less agreeing to, Iranian access to “peaceful nuclear technology, biotechnology and chemical technology” were about as high as John Edwards’ chances of winning the 2012 Democratic nomination.


    “No harm in talking” might have been an entirely sensible way of thinking for people like the Leveretts, who like to think, but that sensible approach predictably would have had little or no (emphasis on “no”) appeal to people who didn’t do much thinking even in the best of times, and who at the time relished their image as can’t-miss swashbuckling rogues spoiling to take on the next member of the Axis of Evil. I can understand (barely) why Wilkerson (who had his head screwed on right, from all I’ve read) would think it was a “propitious” time – if he stopped reading after he’d finished the “US aims” part at the top of the page: Iran clearly appeared to be in a dealin’ mood, and he may have concluded that Iran felt it had better cut a deal quickly before Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld started strapping on their spurs again. But if Wilkerson had continued down into the “Iranian aims” section, and really thought about what he was reading, he’d have to have concluded the time wasn’t quite as “propitious” as it appeared to be for broaching the subject with Bush/Cheney. “Pursuit of MKO, repatration [to Iran] of MKO members” – surely you jest. I distinctly remember that Bush/Cheney’s attitude toward the MKO at the time was, on our terrorist list or not, they seemed like a pretty nice bunch of guys as terrorists go – anyone trying to kick around the mad mullahs couldn’t be all bad. The notion that we’d make a deal with Iran to go out and round them up reflected extreme hopefulness verging on fantasy. That was probably thought of as a nice bargaining chip we’d be happy to play some day (they were terrorists, after all) – but only after we’d first made it a much more valuable bargaining chip by looking the other way for a good long while so that the MKO could cause a great deal more trouble for Iran’s government.


    I am certainly not saying that the memo wasn’t a “wish list” that many of us here think should have been implemented ASAP. Indeed it was, and it largely still is. I’m just saying it was such an obvious non-starter at the time that I find it surprising that anyone might have felt otherwise. I can understand being thrilled with the apparent opportunity that the memo had dropped in one’s lap, and I can understand being extremely frustrated that the people in control were highly unlikely to agree with you on how best (or even whether) to respond. But if one considers oneself a “realist” in foreign policy, it might have been wise to have applied some of that “realism” to the analysis of one’s odds in the bureaucratic chess game one would have first had to win in the US administration. I would say the Leveretts were down maybe a queen, two rooks and a knight, right at the start of the game.


    [Ending portion with obligatory ribbing of WigWag omitted.]

  50. Eric A. Brill says:

    The second of my two “awaiting moderation” posts just appeared. I’m going to try to re-post the first. If it shows up, bear in mind I wrote it earlier than the one that just appeared.

  51. Eric A. Brill says:

    FYI. Earlier today, I submitted two comments (in addition to the several that have actually shown up here). One was quite long, though not as long as WigWag’s very long post. The second was medium length. Neither was posted: both said “awaiting moderation” but they’ve yet to show up. I’m wondering when that will occur. Neither was obscene or otherwise warranted exclusion, but one included some criticism of the Leveretts and the other included a question that may not have been welcome.

  52. Eric A. Brill says:

    WigWag,

    I haven’t read carefully your entire post, but at least one thing you raise does concern me, and I hope Flynt and Hillary will take some time to clarify this.

    Several people you quoted said more or less the same thing, but Armitage’s comments in particular struck me. He said two things: (1) the eagerness of Iran to talk apparently reflected in the Road Map didn’t jibe with what the State Department was hearing independently; and (2) it was hard to know where the Iranian part ended and the Swiss part began.

    I can’t comment on the first part, since Armitage was presumably relying on classified information, which he didn’t elaborate on. The second part concerns me, though, principally because I’ve gone over — line by line, word by word — the two versions of the Road Map that can be found below, and they differ significantly in quite a number of important respects. The one on this website doesn’t include any of the Swiss ambassador’s comments appended to the end of the faxed version on the WaPo website, so I have no comment on that part. But the bodies of the two documents differ considerably. There may be any number of reasons, and I suspect there is a perfectly sensible explanation for why they differ so much. Nonetheless, I’d sure like to hear it, and I suspect others would too. No need for them to detail the differences (I’ve already done that, and am happy to share that information) – but simply to explain why these two versions are so much different.

    http://www.armscontrol.org/pdf/2003_Spring_Iran_Proposal.pdf — Road Map as presented on Race for Iran website.

    http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/documents/us_iran_roadmap.pdf — Road Map as presented on Washington Post archival website (see link at Steve Clemons blog page cited by Leveretts in post today)

  53. Eric A. Brill says:

    Test.

  54. Eric Brill says:

    WigWag,

    I haven’t read carefully your entire post, but at least one thing you raise does concern me, and I hope Flynt and Hillary will take some time to clarify this.

    Several people you quoted said more or less the same thing, but Armitage’s comments in particular struck me. He said two things: (1) the eagerness of Iran to talk apparently reflected in the Road Map didn’t jibe with what the State Department was hearing independently; and (2) it was hard to know where the Iranian part ended and the Swiss part began.

    I can’t comment on the first part, since Armitage was presumably relying on classified information, which he didn’t elaborate on. The second part concerns me, though, principally because I’ve gone over — line by line, word by word — the two versions of the Road Map that can be found below, and they differ significantly in quite a number of important respects. The one on this website doesn’t include any of the Swiss ambassador’s comments appended to the end of the faxed version on the WaPo website, so I have no comment on that part. But the bodies of the two documents differ considerably. There may be any number of reasons, and I suspect there is a perfectly sensible explanation for why they differ so much. Nonetheless, I’d sure like to hear it, and I suspect others would too. No need for them to detail the differences (I’ve already done that, and am happy to share that information) – but simply to explain why these two versions are so much different.

    http://www.armscontrol.org/pdf/2003_Spring_Iran_Proposal.pdf — Road Map as presented on Race for Iran website.

    http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/documents/us_iran_roadmap.pdf — Road Map as presented on Washington Post archival website (see link at Steve Clemons blog page cited by Leveretts in post today).

  55. We thought that WigWag’s comment posted on February 13 at 6:51 pm warranted further clarification from us. There are two questions that need to be addressed separately in understanding what happened, within the Bush Administration, to the Iranian document that arrived in the spring of 2003. The first question is–what was the reaction within the State Department? It is not correct to say that none of the career professionals at State who worked on Iran thought that the document was credible and should be followed up diplomatically by the United States. The Iran expert on Secretary Powell’s Policy Planning Staff at the time–Hillary Mann Leverett–thought that, and sent a detailed memo to Secretary Powell, through the Director of Policy Planning, Richard Haass, to that effect. (We will return to this memo and Powell’s reaction to it in a moment.) Within the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, the senior career diplomat responsible for Iran (and the only serving U.S. diplomat other than Hillary who had regularly negotiated with Iranian counterparts over Afghanistan), then Deputy Assistant Secretary Ryan Crocker, was not working on Iran at that point, as he had left Washington for Kuwait and Baghdad following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Assistant Secretary William Burns was focused on Arab-Israeli and Iraq-related issues and played no regular role in Iran policy. There were only three other mid-level people in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs working on Iran issues, but they were also spending much of their time on Iraq. The statements cited by WigWag from Powell and Armitage reflect the reality that there was considerable ambivalence and uncertainty about the document within NEA, at a time when the Bureau’s experienced officers on Iran were preoccupied with other issues. However, that does not deal with the second question–namely, how did the senior leaderhip of the State Department deal with the Iranian document and who, within the Administration, shot it down? On that question, we can say that Secretary Powell personally told us–this was reported in an Esquire magazine story about us–that he thought that Hillary’s memo recommending a diplomatic follow up to the Iranian document was a “great memo”, but he “couldn’t sell it at the White House”. So, Powell’s own words indicate that he had tried to get wider Administration support for testing the Iranian offer to negotiate. In this context, Larry Wilkerson’s public statements that, once Powell took the document to the White House, it was Vice President Cheney’s office which balked supports our statements that it was neoconservatives within the Administration that killed possibilities for diplomatic progress with Iran at that point. Indeed, within a week or so after the Iranian document arrived at the State Department, neoconservative forces within the Administration were able to cut off a continuation of our longstanding dialogue with the Iranians about Afghanistan and Al-Qa’ida. Since we have left government and been at liberty to meet with a wide range of current and former Iranian officials, many of these individuals have told us that the Iranian document was legitimate and that its transmission had been authorized at the Islamic Republic’s highest levels of authority. We stand by our analysis of the Iranian document, what it signified, and what we believe was the Bush Administration’s mishandling of what could have been a profoundly important strategic opportunty for the United States.

  56. Eric A. Brill says:

    WigWag,

    I haven’t read carefully your entire post, but at least one thing you raise does concern me, and I hope Flynt and Hillary will take some time to clarify this.

    Several people you quoted said more or less the same thing, but Armitage’s comments in particular struck me. He said two things: (1) the eagerness of Iran to talk apparently reflected in the Road Map didn’t jibe with what the State Department was hearing independently; and (2) it was hard to know where the Iranian part ended and the Swiss part began.

    I can’t comment on the first part, since Armitage was presumably relying on classified information, which he didn’t elaborate on. The second part concerns me, though, principally because I’ve gone over — line by line, word by word — the two versions of the Road Map that can be found below, and they differ significantly in quite a number of important respects. The one on this website doesn’t include any of the Swiss ambassador’s comments appended to the end of the faxed version on the WaPo website, so I have no comment on that part. But the bodies of the two documents differ considerably. There may be any number of reasons, and I suspect there is a perfectly sensible explanation for why they differ so much. Nonetheless, I’d sure like to hear it, and I suspect others would too. No need for them to detail the differences (I’ve already done that, and am happy to share that information) – but simply to explain why these two versions are so much different.

    http://www.armscontrol.org/pdf/2003_Spring_Iran_Proposal.pdf — Road Map as presented on Race for Iran website.

    http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/documents/us_iran_roadmap.pdf — Road Map as presented on Washington Post archival website (see link at Steve Clemons blog page cited by Leveretts in post today).

  57. Nader Hobballah says:

    I still anticipate a future post to say “Explaining the concept of reality to Jeffrey Goldberg”

  58. WigWag says:

    It’s really remarkable that this is the best defense that Leverett and Mann Leverett could muster. On a few items they are convincing. Perhaps Leverett wasn’t fired on orders from Secretary Rice. After all, anyone who has been fired from a relatively senior position knows how these things tend to work; rather than firing an incompetent staff member outright, the staff member is encouraged to find another position as soon as possible and then resign of their own volition. It is entirely possible that Lee Smith is wrong and that Leverett wasn’t actually fired just encouraged to find another job and resign quickly thereafter.

    On the Marandi question, the response is even weaker. Their diatribe about the senior Mirandi being a specialist in neonatology means nothing. Either the senior Marandi is the personal physician to the Supreme Leader or he is not; either Lee Smith is right or he is wrong; which is it? In terms of Leverett’s collaborator, the junior Mirandi, who is attempting to get Leverett a visa (mostly unavailable to other American scholars and academics), has he been a spokesperson for the regime or hasn’t he? The answer appears to be that he has been. Has he defended the regime’s crackdown on the Green Movement? The answer appears to be yes. The Leveretts claim that they have no knowledge about Mirandi being an intelligence operative; I see no reason not to take their word on that. But Lee Smith didn’t try to deceive anyone about his evidence (such as it is;) he quoted an Iranian ex pat, who happens to be a Professor in the Medical School at Yale, who claims that Mirandi is an intelligence operative. Believe him; don’t believe him; do which ever you prefer. Naturally, those who support the Leveretts’ thesis will tend to disbelieve the suggestion that Mirandi is a spy. Those who find the Leveretts’ position deplorable will tend to believe that Mirandi is a spy. Of course, none of this provides real evidence one way or the other.

    What is shocking is how weak the Leveretts defense is when they try to refute Lee Smith’s most damning accusations: (1) that the Leveretts were not telling the truth that the neoconservatives in the Bush Administration shot down the supposed grand bargain offered by the Iranians; (2) that the Leveretts, or the Swiss Ambassador or the Leveretts and the Swiss Ambassador together, fabricated all or part of the putative Iranian grand bargain offer.

    In their rebuttal, the Leveretts say,

    “it is not true that, as Mr. Smith alleges, the Iranian document was shot down by our purported “allies”, Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage, and not by neoconservatves. Powell’s own Chief of Staff at the time, Larry Wilkerson, told the BBC that Powell and others at the State Department thought “it was a very propitious moment” to respond to the Iranian offer. “But as soon as it got to the White House and as soon as it got to the Vice-President’s office, the old mantra of ‘We don’t talk to evil’… reasserted itself.”

    But here is a recitation of what the Leveretts putative allies actually said:

    Richard Armitaage:

    “I’ve seen Flynt Leverett…argue that this was a missed opportunity. But I must say that speaking for me and most of my colleagues at the State Department, we didn’t see it that way, and I don’t think many others did at the time because it didn’t fit with some of the other things… that we’d been hearing from Iran….If there had been a desire on the Iranian side to seek a better relationship, it would have been an ideal time…to send that signal, and we got no such signal to my knowledge. I remember talking with people from our Near East division about a fax that came in from the Swiss ambassador, and I think our general feeling was that he had perhaps added a little bit to it because it wasn’t in consonance with the state of our relations…The Swiss ambassador in Tehran was so intent … on bettering relations between …the United States, and Iran that we came to have some questions about where the Iranian message ended and the Swiss message may begin…And we had had some discussions, …particularly through intelligence channels with high-ranking Iranian intelligence people, and nothing that we were seeing in this fax was in consonance with what we were hearing face to face. So we didn’t give it much weight.”

    Colin Powell spokesperson Tom Casey,

    “This document did not come through official channels but rather was a creative exercise on the part of the Swiss ambassador. The last 30 years are filled with examples of individuals claiming to represent Iranian views.”

    Larry Wilkerson as told to Patrick Clawson,

    Clawson: “In other words, the State Department professionals who knew Iran best were not happy with it?”

    Wilkerson: “Yes.”

    Unless the Leveretts can find a way to make these statements from those who agreed with them about Iran disappear, a reasonable person has no choice but to conclude that the Leveretts’ conclusion, that it was the neoconservatives who killed the grand bargain instead of their allies, is false.

    The Leveretts may be right that a physical document, purportedly from the Iranians existed; though I doubt that many people have understood over these past many months that their only evidence that the Iranians ever offered a grand bargain was limited to a single fax coming from the Swiss Ambassador.

    What is really shocking and revealing is that the Leveretts make no attempt in their rebuttal to shoot down the assertion that the content of the fax was an inauthentic representation of Iranian intentions; that it was largely authored by the Swiss Ambassador. I have no reason to disbelieve the Leveretts assertion that they had nothing to do with writing it, but many of the Leveretts’ Bush Administration allies believed that the offer in question was not authored primarily by the Iranians but was instead authored by Ambassador Guldimann.

    The quote from Richard Armitage mentioned above proves beyond any reasonable doubt that he believed that the Swiss Ambassador exaggerated Iranian intentions; Remember, Armitage said,

    “The Swiss ambassador in Tehran was so intent … on bettering relations between the United States and Iran that we came to have some questions about where the Iranian message ended and the Swiss message may begin…”

    The quote from Lawrence Wilkerson above demonstrates that he and Colin Powell disbelieved the assertion that it was the Iranians as opposed to the Ambassador who authored the ideas in question.

    And the quote from Powell’s spokesperson, Tom Casey, that must have been approved by either Powell or a senior official working for Powell, suggests that Powell felt that this was not a bona fide offer from the Iranians. To reiterate, what Casey said, he indicated that the supposed proposal represented a “creative exercise on the part of the Swiss ambassador.”

    The fact that Leveretts make no attempt to respond to these assertions from their putative allies contradicting everything the Leveretts say about the “grand bargain” is devastating to their argument and devastating to their credibility.

    They have failed to even attempt to rebut the most serious accusation against them; that their insistence that a “grand bargain was offered by the Iranians in 2003 is false.

    Unless they can offer a more convincing response to the allegations in the Tablet Magazine article, there is simply no way that a reasonable person can conclude that they are anything other than dissemblers.

    While there may be a small cadre of people desperate to believe the Leveretts because they find the strategy the Leveretts suggest so appealing; the rest of the world will be asking, “if Iran never offered a “grand bargain” in the first place, why should anyone think that they would entertain one now.

    So far, it’s Lee Smith 1; Hillary Mann Leverett and Flynt Leverett 0

    ps: Andrew Sullivan, who is engaged in a little controversy of his own right now has rendered his verdict about the Leveretts on the “Daily Dish.” He called them “callous.” The controversy Andrew’s experiencing must have mellowed him; callous is about the nicest thing Andrew has ever called the Leveretts.

  59. Ghorob says:

    interesting article.

    I don’t understand what is wrong with traveling to Iran specially for those who work as Iran expert? the fact that Washington no longer takes old generation of Iran experts very seriously is probably their out of touch arguments mainly due to not being able to visit the country. seeing a country through computer monitors might give valuable information but by no means can be a substitute for physical experience. Iran is a very dynamic country, and yes not everything about Iran can be found in the internet or in the bookstores. unlike western societies which are pretty well classified scientifically, Iran still has one foot into a dynamic tradition deeply. a tradition that influences politicians and the ordinary people alike.from the occurrence of the revolution to even recent election and its aftermath, Iran has shown a great degree of unpredictably. unpredictably, that is not so strange for an insider, but nevertheless has so often confounded western style experts’ expectation. just look what nonsense documents recently some so called Iran experts produced: Milani, Tekeyh, Ansari, Parsi, … and even Farahi…. and they just got disconnected from the actual surf for few years.

  60. rfjk says:

    It appears the Leverett’s are having a far greater effect upon the Goldberg’s and Smith’s of this world than they imagined. And I would say that effect is positive for all the smearing and prevarication their enemies hurl at them. This time around barking dogs have some real opposition and can’t run the whole field before them at they did in the immediate post 9-11 era.

  61. Matthew Sutton says:

    I just wanted to say thank you to the Leveretts for you determination in helping us avoid another Iraq. Do not be deterred by the attacks, we need more people like you here in the US that question and challenge policies.

  62. Eric A. Brill says:

    I just notice the elusive Swiss-Iranian memo is actually right here on this Website, and much more readable than the link I provided. Just click on “Key Documents” at the bottom of your screen.

  63. Samuel says:

    Professor Juan Cole, no friend of the IRI, has accurately described Mr. Goldberg as “an American Likudnik”.

  64. Eric A. Brill says:

    http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/documents/us_iran_roadmap.pdf

    That’s the actual link to the document. Worth reading, though I can’t help being surprised that anyone would have been optimistic about it going anywhere at that time. “Respect for the Iranian claims for Iraqi reparation [in connection with the Iran-Iraq war]” — please. I could go on, but make your own judgments. Bush had barely hung his “Mission Accomplished” flight suit in the closet. Even if Powell was still compos mentis at the time (an assumption I forever ceased making after his UN presentation in February 2003), he had about as much influence on Bush/Cheney as a twice-castrated eunuch, and Armitage had about as much influence as a highly regarded right-hand man to a twice-castrated eunuch. As I vaguely recall, Judith Miller was still breathlessly chasing after Army jeeps and reporting that a cache of WMD was just around the next corner. The odds of us even discussing, much less agreeing to, Iranian access to “peaceful nuclear technology, biotechnology and chemical technology” were about as high as John Edwards’ chances of winning the 2012 Democratic nomination.

    “No harm in talking” might have been an entirely sensible way of thinking for people like the Leveretts, who like to think, but that sensible approach predictably would have had little or no (emphasis on “no”) appeal to people who didn’t do much thinking even in the best of times, and who at the time relished their image as can’t-miss swashbuckling rogues spoiling to take on the next member of the Axis of Evil. I can understand (barely) why Wilkerson (who had his head screwed on right, from all I’ve read) would think it was a “propitious” time – if he stopped reading after he’d finished the “US aims” part at the top of the page: Iran clearly appeared to be in a dealin’ mood, and he may have concluded that Iran felt it had better cut a deal quickly before Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld started strapping on their spurs again. But if Wilkerson had continued down into the “Iranian aims” section, and really thought about what he was reading, he’d have to have concluded the time wasn’t quite as “propitious” as it appeared to be for broaching the subject with Bush/Cheney. “Pursuit of MKO, repatration [to Iran] of MKO members” – surely you jest. I distinctly remember that Bush/Cheney’s attitude toward the MKO at the time was, on our terrorist list or not, they seemed like a pretty nice bunch of guys as terrorists go – anyone trying to kick around the mad mullahs couldn’t be all bad. The notion that we’d make a deal with Iran to go out and round them up reflected extreme hopefulness verging on fantasy. That was probably thought of as a nice bargaining chip we’d be happy to play some day (they were terrorists, after all) – but only after we’d first made it a much more valuable bargaining chip by looking the other way for a good long while so that the MKO could cause a great deal more trouble for Iran’s government.

    I am certainly not saying that the memo wasn’t a “wish list” that many of us here think should have been implemented ASAP. Indeed it was, and it largely still is. I’m just saying it was such an obvious non-starter at the time that I find it surprising that anyone might have felt otherwise. I can understand being thrilled with the apparent opportunity that the memo had dropped in one’s lap, and I can understand being extremely frustrated that the people in control were highly unlikely to agree with you on how best (or even whether) to respond. But if one considers oneself a “realist” in foreign policy, it might have been wise to have applied some of that “realism” to the analysis of one’s odds in the bureaucratic chess game one would have first had to win in the US administration. I would say the Leveretts were down maybe a queen, two rooks and a knight, right at the start of the game.

    Nonetheless, the main point of all this has been to determine whether the Leveretts were lying about the memo. That, I think we’ll all agree, has been settled (for those few who really had doubts). As the Leveretts have established for all doubters, the memo did exist, and Armitage certainly did know about it (or at least pretended very well, if he didn’t, since he discussed it at some length with Newsweek) (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/13/AR2007021301363.html, cited in the Clemons note that Flynt and Hillary mention).

    All this being so, duty calls for the Captain of our Truth Squad! Professor WigWag – mount thy steed!

    I can only imagine how relieved you must be to learn that the Leveretts are truth-tellers after all, and how angry you must be at that bad man Lee Smith for having deceived you. I know we can count on you to get right on the case: insist that Smith respond to this attack on his integrity. Tell him the entire on-line world is abuzz about it. Be sure to tell him how disappointed you’ll be if he doesn’t drop what he’s doing to respond, since that will prove his guilt beyond any doubt. And let him know my old professor is hot on his trail as well.

    We’re counting on you, WigWag; please don’t let us down.

  65. b says:

    Nice takedown. Applause and thanks!

  66. M. S. M. says:

    To the Leveretts
    I just wanted to say what Dan said, “I am glad there are people like you on this planet. You are a credit to humanity.”
    It seems that Mr. Goldberg and Mr Smith are so full of hatred that they have lost their reason.

  67. Eric A. Brill says:

    Pirouz wrote:

    “Honestly, I find these personal defenses a real waste of time. The posts offered by the Leverrrets are loaded with valuable perspective you simply can’t find anywhere else. That their energy is so easily diverted by detractors only serves to distract the Leverrets’ away from this far more valuable pursuit. So in effect, the detractors’ efforts sort of work. I say ignore these lessor detractors wherever possible. Please, keep us informed on what’s really important- the race for Iran.”

    I agree completely with you, Pirouz. I just have this one lingering doubt that may be what motivates the Leveretts to devote so much time to defending themselves against these attacks. The conventional wisdom in political campaigning is that, when attacked, you attack back hard — preferably in the same news cycle, but in any case by the next one — or you’ll be stuck with the accusation forever. John Kerry’s swift-boat experience is the classic recent example. However, I’ve often wondered even so whether it’s that way solely because it’s that way — in other words, whether the very strong presumption that one will defend or attack back if one is innocent of the charges DOES mean that silence equals guilt. Whether I could take that chance if I were being attacked, I don’t know, but I’d like to think I could. I wish, like you, that the Leveretts would cross their fingers and give it a try. They’ve got a lot more to do that’s of value, exactly as you say.

  68. Kamran says:

    The Leveretts should be supported not abused. It’s gradually become clear over the last 8 months that their article (which I’ve just read) with Professor Mohammad Marandi was spot on. I live in Moneerieh in the southern part of Tehran city and a solid majority of the people here voted for Ahmadinejad. Those friends of mine who voted for Mr. Mousavi, gradually became angry with him and do not support the “Green Wave”.

  69. ServingPatriot says:

    Flynt and Hillary,

    Thank you for this defense. It appears the forces that are determined to widen war in the Persian Gulf continue to make up their own reality… and expect the rest of us to simply accept it. Let’s hope that your defense of the slanders peddled by propagandist chickenhawks like Goldberg and Smith will be read by responsible journalists. And that responsible editors will grant it equal time in their “august publications.”

    SP

  70. Dan cooper says:

    What LEVERETTs are doing is to prevent another war and to save Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iranian men, women and children from being slaughtered in similar fashion by coalition forces, during the bombardment of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Off course, this does not go down well with the warmongering Zionist and their supporters such as lee smith.

    He has to resort to lies and character assassination to prove a point.

    LEVERETTs are two highly educated, honourable and peace loving people.

    My personal message to Flynt and Hillary leverett is this:

    I am glad there are people like you on this planet. You are a credit to humanity.

  71. Pirouz says:

    Honestly, I find these personal defenses a real waste of time.

    The posts offered by the Leverrrets are loaded with valuable perspective you simply can’t find anywhere else. That their energy is so easily diverted by detractors only serves to distract the Leverrets’ away from this far more valuable pursuit. So in effect, the detractors’ efforts sort of work.

    I say ignore these lessor detractors wherever possible. Please, keep us informed on what’s really important- the race for Iran.

  72. Jon Harrison says:

    Fiorangela eloquently makes the point I tried to convey in a hastily written (and perhaps somewhat incoherent) comment yesterday. It’s very unfortunate that the Leveretts have to spend time defending themselves against such attacks. But that’s part of the other side’s strategy. We’ve all suffered from it to some extent. I think the Leveretts get extra treatment because their establishment cred is viewed as a threat by the other side.

  73. Pirouz says:

    Didn’t even read this post. No need. The power of the Leverrret’s argument is not based on their personal lives, it’s based on logic and reason.

  74. Fiorangela Leone says:

    Where’s Bill Bennett when you need him?

    The Supreme Court recently declared that political speech by corporations is to be afforded first amendment protection. In the US, freedom of speech is a right protected by force of law.

    Bennett frequently lectures that Rights come with responsibilities. To extend that to freedom of speech, not only should one have the responsibility to speak truthfully, persons relying on freedom of speech should be expected to accept responsibility for the foreseeable consequences of his speech. In a rational society, it should not be permissible to lie with impunity. Those who take advantage of the right of free speech have the attendant responsibility to speak truthfully and must be accountable for their speech.

    Words are weapons just as surely as drones are weapons.

    Goldberg and Smith are wielding weapons of mass destruction. All options should be on the table in attempting to contain these irrational proliferators of Words of Mass Destruction, and crippling sanctions should be imposed on them to protect the free world from the threat of a mushrooming of WoMD emerging from new and more impenetrably dug caves of Goldbergian mendacity.

  75. Iranian says:

    You forget to mention the claim that Mohammad Marandi is a key Ahmadinejad spokesman. Anyone who has seen him on Aljazeera (especially Inside Story) and Press TV would know that he didn’t even vote for President Ahmadinejad. The president would be lucky to have him, but defending the IR of Iran does not make anyone a key government spokesman.

    I agree with Liz, it seems that the US is becoming a dangerous place for reasonable people.

  76. Liz says:

    I didn’t know that the US had become such a dangerous place for peole who advocate reason.

  77. Eric A. Brill says:

    Hillary and Flynt Leverett wrote:

    “This kind of McCarthyite tactic was used by Mr. Goldberg, among others, in the run up to the Iraq war, in a largely successful effort to ensure that there was no serious questioning of the lies about Iraqi WMD and links to Al Qaida that Mr. Goldberg, among others, worked hard to disseminate. We will continue to do our best to ensure that Mr. Goldberg, Mr. Smith, and others like them do not get away with such profound and dangerous dishonesty this time around.”

    For any of you out there who may wonder why people like the Leveretts (and I) bother with all of this, the second sentence above is precisely the reason.

  78. Eric A. Brill says:

    Hillary and Flynt,

    Very well done. i think the only thing left is this suggestion: In your house, somewhere near the front door where guests are sure to pass by shortly after they enter, set up a neat and clean desk in some little alcove with just a few carefully arranged papers on the desk and some freshly sharpened pencils sitting alongside. As you walk guests back into the house, nod toward the alcove and casually say something like “Oh, that’s where Flynt works. He’s such a neatnik!”

    That should pretty much cover for Flynt. Then he can spread out his actual work papers on the floor in a corner of your bedroom and get some work done.