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The Race for Iran

Flynt Leverett Debates Michael Ledeen on Iran Policy

Last week, the Atlantic Council hosted a debate between Race for Iran Publisher and New America Foundation/Iran Initiative Director Flynt Leverett and Foundation for Defense of Democracies Freedom Scholar Michael Ledeen. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius moderated the debate.

As promised, the video of the debate is embedded above and can also be found here.

– Ben Katcher

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10 Responses to “Flynt Leverett Debates Michael Ledeen on Iran Policy”

  1. Nader Hobballah says:

    Look’s like Daniel Pipes’ people are working overtime:
    http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/9247

  2. kooshy says:

    Interesting opinion published on China Daily

    China should not support more sanctions against Iran
    By Han Dongping (Chinadaily.com.cn)

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/thinktank/2010-03/08/content_9552831.htm

  3. kooshy says:

    Well I also listened to the debate, and sadly the only issue that was not raised and discussed was the health of Ayatollah Khamenaie that Michele is an expert of, every now and then he gets very personal inside information from “close and reliable sources” that Mr. Khamenaie is in the deathbed. Then a few days later, you will see that Mr. Khamenaie is making hour-long speeches or is hiking in Kurdistan. I guess Mr. Ladeen is opting for a fortuneteller job at ASI to be with the other “Scholars” of his magnitude.

  4. JohnH says:

    I love it when “experts” like Ledeen makes themselves look totally ignorant and foolish. But Ledeen reaches for the record books when his suggests that anything green has been banned. Guess Spring must be outlawed now!!!

    But more importantly, “the color green has a special place in Islam. It is used in the decoration of mosques, the bindings of Qur’ans, the silken covers for the graves of Sufi saints, and in the flags of various Muslim countries. Green has been associated with Islam for many centuries. It is not clear why this is so. Some say green was Muhammad’s favorite color and that he wore a green cloak and turban. Others believe that it symbolizes nature and life, hence the physical manifestation of God.” Not exactly something the Mullahs would ban.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbols_of_Islam

    Finding high quality, useful idiots must be more difficult than I ever imagined…

  5. Eric A. Brill says:

    Arnold,

    “It might have been more informative for a more formidable debating opponent to be presented than Ledeen, but you debate the adversary you have, not the adversary you wish you had.”

    Exactly right. I’d add only that, if I were Flynt, I might have gently pressed the Atlantic Council to come up with someone a bit more formidable. Who knows — maybe he did, but Ledeen is either all they could come up with or (probably more likely) others consider him to be more formidable than he appeared to us.

  6. Arnold Evans says:

    Two things. Of course Hillary said “we are doing a lot behind the scenes” to help the Greens. The second is that the Wall Street Journal, in an article that obviously has White House sourcing, claims that the Green movement actually gave the White House a list of Revolutionary Guards to sanction:

    U.S. Treasury Department strategists already have been focusing on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has emerged as the economic and military power behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    In recent weeks, senior Green Movement figures — who have been speaking at major Washington think tanks — have made up a list of IRGC-related companies they suggest targeting, which has been forwarded to the Obama administration by third parties.

    It might have been more informative for a more formidable debating opponent to be presented than Ledeen, but you debate the adversary you have, not the adversary you wish you had.

  7. Eric A. Brill says:

    Dan,

    Actually, now that you mention it, Flynt’s line:

    “We need to deal with Iran as it is, not as what we wish it to be.”

    was even better than the one I mentioned. I remember hearing that question and wondering how I’d answer it, and I’d come up with some answer that was a whole lot worse than what Flynt responded with there. So he still gets the “best line” award, but for a different line.

  8. Dan cooper says:

    Eric

    Very good point.

    You wrote and I quote:

    “(4) Mr. Ledeen said he’s heard from reliable sources (is there any other kind?) that not a single Green leader has even been contacted, much less helped, by any Western government. As an American taxpayer, I’d like to know: What in the heck is our government doing with that $400 million a year that Congress budgeted for the overthrow of the Iranian regime? Sounds like we’re not getting much bang for our buck”.

    The entire world is aware that CIA, Mossad and some European secret service agencies are active in Iran except Mr. Ledeen.

    Mr. Ledeen is just a pathetic liar; he knows very well that CIA has helped the green movement in many ways than one and I am glad you exposed his true colors. Perhaps Mr. Leverett ought to have mentioned the $400 million a year that Congress budgeted for the overthrow of the Iranian regime through NED.

    Mr. Ledeen mentioned that we should first change the regime in Iran to a democratic one and then engage with it but forgot to mention that USA has already been doing business with two of the most repressive regimes on the plant, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

    Some of the remarks by Mr. Leverett were interesting:

    “We need to drop fantasies that internal political change in Iran is going to solve our foreign policy problems in the Middle East.”

    “We need to deal with Iran as it is, not as what we wish it to be.”

  9. Eric A. Brill says:

    Just finished watching it. A few comments:

    – Flynt wins the “best line” award, commenting on the usual response to reasoned argument about Iran: “I didn’t know laughter was an argument.”

    – Flynt wasn’t even in the running, however, for the “Most Ironic Comment,” which Mr. Ledeen made in response to the moderator’s question whether US support for the Greens should be “overt” or “covert”:

    “I’ve always been in favor of ‘overt.’ I think ‘covert’ is not an American policy.”

    For any of you who thought Mr. Ledeen might have had a hand in some covert hanky-panky in the past — take that!

    – The award for saying “I think” the most times also goes to Mr. Ledeen, hands-down. I’d guess he said it 100 times, apparently assuming that many in the audience cared a great deal about that. Several times a self-deprecating preface was included, as in “I don’t know, but I think…” Sometimes, his certainty was based on other senses as well: “I can smell it,” he assured us, referring to the rotten core of the Iranian regime, and “I can feel it,” referring to its inevitable demise. He did not mention “tasting it,” but who could doubt that: it was clearly an “all-five-senses” sort of certainty he was conveying to his audience.

    Flynt fell way short here also, far too intent on laying out facts and sound arguments.

    – We learned a few things from Mr. Ledeen:

    (1) The color green has been outlawed in Iran. He praised himself for wearing green to the debate, and expressed considerable pride in living in a country that still allows that (a pride I am sure we all feel, and I can assure that I, for one, am not waiting for St. Patrick’s Day to wear my bright green socks). Flynt allowed as how he hadn’t noticed the anti-green police during his recent trip to Iran, and mentioned that green still seems to be one of the colors in the Iranian flag. (Ledeen’s brow furrowed a bit at that: I think he’s going to think of a way to deal with that anomaly next time he mentions this anti-green law.)

    (2) Women in Iran are worth “legally, half a man.” Ledeen didn’t think that was fair — implying, of course, that Flynt did, but Flynt assured him it wasn’t so.

    (3) Mr. Ledeen reminded the audience that he had been right to predict the downfall of the Soviet regime 20 years ago (in fact, he mentioned that roughly one time for each year which has passed since then) — which means, of course, that he must also be right when he predicts that the same thing will soon happen in Iran.

    (4) Mr. Ledeen said he’s heard from reliable sources (is there any other kind?) that not a single Green leader has even been contacted, much less helped, by any Western government. As an American taxpayer, I’d like to know: What in the heck is our government doing with that $400 million a year that Congress budgeted for the overthrow of the Iranian regime? Sounds like we’re not getting much bang for our buck.

    (5): Mr. Ledeen seems to be a nicer guy than I’d thought, but someone who ought not to be taken very seriously. He’s past his prime, pretty much out of the loop, and doesn’t have the raw intellectual power, nor a clear enough grasp of foreign policy at a strategic level, to be worth listening to.

    (6) Bottom line, with all due respect to Flynt, watching this was not worth the time spent. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know — I even knew already that the color green had been outlawed in Iran (I think Rush Limbaugh taught me that!)

  10. Bill Quilp says:

    I haven’t seen the Niger forger for years, I thought he was dead!