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The Race for Iran

Flynt Leverett Discusses The Green Movement on PBS NewsHour

Flynt Leverett, appeared on PBS’ NEWSHOUR last night with Institute for Science and International Security President David Albright and University of California Riverside Professor Reza Aslan to discuss events in Iran yesterday – the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic – in the context of U.S. policy.

In the clip above, Leverett argues that the Islamic Republic is more stable than many western commentators have indicated.

He compares events since the June 11 elections to the revolution of 1978-79 that overthrew the Shah, noting that in the twelve months prior to that revolution, Iranian security forces gunned down tens of thousands of protesters. In contrast, slightly more than 100 people have been killed since last year’s June 11 elections.

Leverett’s bottom line is that support for the opposition in Iran should not get in the way of doing “serious strategic business with the Islamic Republic as it is and not as some might wish it to be.”

The 11 minute clip is available here.

— Ben Katcher


58 Responses to “Flynt Leverett Discusses The Green Movement on PBS NewsHour”

  1. Jon Harrison says:

    One can argue about details, but the fact is that an offer was made and was indeed brushed aside by the Bush administration. Some context is required. In May 2003 we were a mere three weeks beyond the entry into Baghdad. The Iranians undoubtedly feared they were next on the list. Similarly, in the flush of victory the Bush administration had no reason (as it saw the matter) to engage the Iranians.

    I would not argue that a grand bargain was a achievable then (we can’t know that), but rather that this was an opportunity wasted. A similar situation arose in the immediate post-9/11 environment. But the fact is that the Bush administration, whose foreign policy WAS dominated by Cheney and the neocons, never had the slightest interest in engaging Iran.

    This controversy has little or nothing to do with the situation in 2010 and amounts to a tempest in a teapot. The question today is: should the U.S. attempt to engage Iran and forge a strategic partnership? The answer is yes. Quarreling about the past gets us nowhere.

  2. Pirouz says:

    Speaking of which, that would be an excellent question to ask Professor Reza Aslan. Did he even vote in the June 2009 election?

  3. Pirouz says:


    You totally dodged my question! Why can’t you answer the question? Who did you vote for inthe June 2009 election?

    Could it be you shrugged off this responsibility of citicanship? (Are you even a citizen?) If so, you can’t even claim you’ve a stake in the outcome- can you?

    With that being the case, you should be providing opinions not from the position of the Iranian people. Instead, you should be putting forth opinion from a position of your host country- I’m guessing the USA.

    Well, that’s what the Leverrret’s are doing here: they’re advocating foreign policy for the US (and not the Islamic Repubic of Iran). Agree or disagree, but do so on behalf of your host country, not the country you no longer demonstrate any real real responsibity for.

  4. WigWag says:

    Your comment is feeble minded JohnH.

    I’ve provided evidence, including quotes from the relevant parties that tend to suggest that the Leveretts are either mistaken or deliberately deceptive.

    I am sure that there is evidence that suggests otherwise.

    If you have that evidence; produce it. If you think my argument is mistaken; provide a thoughtful response.

    If you can’t do it, then your comments are little more than rants.

    Goodness knows, there’s more than enough of those around here.

  5. JohnH says:

    “Anyone who criticizes Israeli actions or says that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over U.S. Middle East policy stands a good chance of getting labeled an anti-Semite. In fact, anyone who says that there is an Israel lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism, even though AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents are hardly bashful about describing their influence. … In effect, the lobby both boasts of its own power and frequently attacks those who call attention to it.” –Mearsheimer and Walt

    They could have added that “anyone who criticizes or opposes the Israeli agenda will be the target of smears and innuendo.”

    Though this should be obvious to everyone by now, when you read what Wigwag posts, you should bear this in mind.

  6. WigWag says:

    The allegations that Lee Smith makes in his article are not new. In fact, there is substantial documentary evidence that Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann-Leverett either lied or stretched the truth when they claimed that Iran had offered a grand bargain that would have them stop aiding terrorists, stop work on nuclear weapons and recognize Israel if only the Bush Administration would eschew regime change in Iran.

    Much of this was debated years ago, but Smith is providing a service by reminding people that the Leveretts may be (and I emphasize may be) dissembling.

    Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson, both consistent advocates of a diplomatic approach to Iran, have each said on the record that that the State Department under Powell’s leadership never believed there was an “offer” from Iran in 2003. They also claim that the Leveretts suggestion that Iran had approved the text that supposedly came from the Swiss Ambassador is false.

    Moreover, Wilkerson and Armitage have claimed that it was them and not the neocons as Leverett alleged, who rejected the authenticity of the putative Iranian offer.

    Apparently Richard Haass, the best man at the Leverett wedding himself doubted the authenticity of the Iranian proposal.

    This is what Colin Powell’s spokesman Tom Casey told the Washington Post,

    “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.”

    Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told Newsweek,

    “We couldn’t determine what [in the proposal] was the Iranians’ and what was the Swiss ambassador’s.”

    Lawrence Wilkerson was asked by Patrick Clawson,

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

    Wilkerson responded, “Yes.”

    Richard Armitage told the PBS show, “Frontline” that he and Powell had been “very interested” in an opening to Iran, but neither of them thought that the message they received in May 2003 was a “serious endeavor…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.”

    It’s important to remember that like his boss, Powell, Armitage was interested in an opening to Iran. Cheney wasn’t, Rumsfield wasn’t; Powell and Armitage were but they found the idea that Iran was seeking a grand bargain completely unconvincing.

    Whether Flynt Leverett or Hillary Mann Leverett were involved with Swiss Ambassador Guldmann in manufacturing an Iranian proposal that was either completely made up or significantly exaggerated is an open question.

    It does appear that at the very least that the claims by Leverett and Mann Leverett that the neoconservatives in the Bush Administration rejected the supposed overture from Iran is most likely false. It was the doves in the Bush Administration, including Flynt Leverett’s putative allies, Powell and Armitage who did that.

    None of these allegations are new. They were made in an “American Thinker” article 15 months ago. The Leveretts have had plenty of time to figure out how to refute the allegations that they are being less than honest on what went down with the putative Iranian proposal.

    Here’s a link to the “American Thinker” article,


    The article is footnoted and provides sources.

    Why does any of this matter? The Leveretts claim that a grand bargain with Iran is possible; they cite as evidence the fact that the Iranians proposed a grand bargain once before. If that claim is either mistaken or a deliberate lie, it makes the claim that the Iranians are interested in a grand bargain now considerably less credible.

  7. Dan cooper says:


    You either must have been watching too much news on the Zionist propaganda TV stations such as FOX , CNN and BBC to be so distant from the reality


    Your posts represent a typical Iranian style propaganda, which is based on dishonesty, exaggerations and manipulation of facts.

    Ideological and emotional agendas result in you distancing yourself from factual and analytical information, preferring instead information that fits with your material interests and emotional disposition.

    The primacy of emotion over “fact” bids ill for you, and “The fact” is this:

    “The supporters of Ahmadinejad represent the majority of Iranian people”

    The extraordinary attention given to the Iranian election suggests that many American and Israelis had a stake in the outcome.

    Fortunately for Iranian people, they were defeated and justice prevailed.

  8. Goli says:

    OK sorry, chocolate milk, very very large mugs of chocolate milk!

  9. Eric A. Brill says:

    Goli wrote:

    “Maybe I should have informed them that the real reason they were planning to join the rally, unbeknownst to them, was the lemonade!”

    Slight correction, Goli, at least if the menu on Feb. 11 was similar to that at the last large pro-government rally. According to Nazila Fathi of the New York Times, when she reported the massive pro-government rally on December 30, it was “free chocolate milk,” not lemonade, that drew the crowd (who arrived on “dozens of buses” – very, very large buses, it would seem). Goodness only knows how much smaller the crowd might have been if they’d been serving only lemonade.

  10. Goli says:

    The extent of unsubstantiated claims and plain lies by some of these so called Iranian expatriate Iran experts is truly shameful. While it maybe true that in some cases the government facilitates transportation to the rally on the occasion of the anniversary of Iranian revolution and the day is officially designated a national holiday (US: Independence Day, France: Bastille Day, etc.), there is absolutely no evidence, as Mr. Aslan claims, that the people are offered “a few dollars.”

    The majority of my relatives and friends (mostly living in the city of Tehran) voted for Mosuavi by a slim margin. However, I spoke with some of my relatives in the past few days, (some who voted for Mousavi and Karoubi and some who voted for Ahmadinejad) who told me that they were planning to participate in the rally for the first time in the 31 years of the Islamic Republic. The reason, they explained, was their belief in the legitimacy of the elections (albeit within the confines of the Islamic Republic) and Iran’s right to nuclear energy. They felt that participating in the rally was the only way to have their voices on these issues heard. Maybe I should have informed them that the real reason they were planning to join the rally, unbeknownst to them, was the lemonade!

  11. Dan cooper says:


    It is absolutely clear that the supporters of Ahmadinejad’s government represent the majority of Iranian people, and the supporters of the opposition are clearly in the minority.

    If you believe in any democracy, you have to respect the wishes of the majority.

    Do not be a sore looser.

  12. leaveareply says:

    Azadi square or freedom square is 50,000 square meter (see azadi tower in wiki). that area is equal to 538,196 square feet. if each person fits into one square foot and if you subtract the area of the actual azadi tower and the area for the reporters and “the officials guest and families”, then at most half million people can fit into the square.

  13. leaveareply says:

    Where are IRI supporters?
    Sparse crowds at Azadi Sq. during Ahmadinejad speech on 22 Bahman


  14. Eric A. Brill says:

    leaveareply wrote:

    “Enjoy your delusions while you can.”

    RESPONSE: I’ll do my best.

  15. leaveareply says:

    On Monday, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei vowed to deliver a “punch in the mouth” to those who might exercise their right to peaceful dissent today during Iran’s national holiday. But a “punch” is a far cry from the two executions recently carried out for the same reasons.

    Today during Iran’s Victory of the Revolution Day, when words like “revolution”, “independence” and “freedom” are on everyone’s lips, fears of torture, repression and death still remain.

    The shock is still very much palpable over the two horrific hangings that took place in Iran just weeks ago. The two hanged men became the “fall guys” for the post-Presidential election violence that consumed the streets of Iran last summer. This happened despite the fact that the accused men were nowhere near the widespread demonstrations – they were already in prison!

    Now fear mounts again that 9 more men will hang based on similarly outrageous charges. Help focus Iran’s attention on its real problem. Urge Iran to stop the executions.


  16. Eric A. Brill says:


    “People proved that they are strong enough to force government into defensive mode, and they achieved that without exploding a single bomb or burning a cinema or killing a police officer.”

    RESPONSE: It is perplexing indeed. The government certainly had no reason to expect they’d become violent, and so one can’t understand why they prepared for violence.

  17. leaveareply says:

    Dan Cooper: You couldn’t be more wrong. You are so naive…In my opinion, Leverettes are no different than neocons. Their real intention is to corner Obama into invading Iran.

  18. 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 notgo 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.

  19. leaveareply says:

    Eric Brill:

    Enjoy your delusions while you can. If you believe that lunacy, then I have beacfront property in Arizona to sell..

  20. Eric A. Brill says:


    “Most of the diaspora does not recognize the Islamic Republic including Mousavi the legitimate government of Iran.”

    RESPONSE: I guess that’s why they left, eh? But even though they’re gone, they’re still the real Iranians, right?


    “Most of the diaspora didn’t vote…You are too uninformed to discuss Iran-related issues.”

    RESPONSE: Well, one or two of them did vote, at least according to that left-leaning American Enterprise Institute’s Iran Tracker group:


  21. leaveareply says:

    IRI apologists are tickled pink knowing that after mass arrests, public threats on TV, executions, threatning texts, after putting hundreds of thousands of heavily armed thugs on the streets and after closing off the entire capital, its pathetic regime could finally put on a dog and pony show in peace so that its o Western mercenary residing, Kool-Aid drinking out of touch Kamikaze supporters can gloat for a while.

  22. leaveareply says:

    Major Pirouz::: Look at Major Pirouz’ IRGC Uniform. He calls himself, sargord pirouz, which means Major Pirouz. check out his picture: He is obsessed with military stuff. However, he can’t even read or write Persian and he lives in the US…He is a butt of joke in the Iranian community.


  23. leaveareply says:

    Defeat only for the unrealistic ones
    by Mammad on Thu Feb 11, 2010 01:42 PM PST

    Today’s events do not represent a defeat for the Green Movement. If on the anniversary of the revolution, that brought to power a political system that is supposedly supported by the majority of the people, the government must blanket Tehran with tens of thousands of security forces, intelligence agents, Basij militia, and plainclothe officers just to prevent expression of opposition, what kind of “victory” it is for the government? It is, in fact, a great victory for the GM.

    This was a defeat only for those who exaggerate things, who claime that the hardliners’ demise is imminent, etc. I have always said, and repeat again:

    1. The struggle for democracy, including the struggle of the GM, is not a project that starts on a certain date and ends on a certain date, but rather a process; it is not a sprint, but rather a Marathon.

    2. The hardliners and their supporters do not have any place to go, unlike the Shah’s supporters who moved to Europe and US. Therefore, these guys will not give up power easily. The plitical structure will change ONLY when even they become convinced that the present power structure is no longer tenable, and it is not even in their interest and survival for the system to continue. If the premise is correct, then the struggle will necessarily be long and tough.

    But, we will get there.–Muhammad Sahimi

  24. Pirouz says:

    I voted in the June election. I voted for the Green candidate. That said, I accept the results, and Dr. Ahmadinejad is the legitimate president of Iran.

    I also agree with the advocacy put forth by the Leverrets.

    Paneer & leaveareply: Who did you vote for in the election?

  25. leaveareply says:

    The most important accomplishment yesterday was the proof that a few can force the government into a defensive mode and news blockade.

    Considering the 850,000 families in and around Tehran and suburbs that are one way or another on governments handouts (not including government employees) so, it is no surprise that regime was able to recruit enough people to go for a healthy walk on a day with low traffic.

    But the harbinger of success and unity that is being built up was the fact that people were able to force the backward regime to block Google, Blogspot, Gmail, local newspapers and many other news organizations from reporting anything about the party crashers. People proved that they are strong enough to force government into defensive mode, and they achieved that without exploding a single bomb or burning a cinema or killing a police officer. A few thousand united people were able to shake the rotten pillars fo theocracy without any need from Mussavi (the absent petite Imam), Sazegara (new Vogue) or Nourizadeh (the man in search of paternal home), Reza (quarter-Pahlavi) or anyone else.

  26. leaveareply says:

    To shut down opposing views,crack old lady’s heads and shoot protestor’s,Shut down the press,bus in the Rallier’s and claim ‘revered’ Nuclear Power.

    The opposition’s success yesterday as always was seen in the Regimes Complete desperation.

    We in the ‘West’ are completely devastated… Not..

    But it’s more like the people of Iran are by totalitarianism..

  27. leaveareply says:

    Most of the diaspora does not recognize the Islamic Republic including Mousavi the legitimate government of Iran.

  28. leaveareply says:

    Most of the diaspora didn’t vote…You are too uninformed to discuss Iranprelated issues.

  29. leaveareply says:

    Who: Those who are in abject poverty. And those who are welfare queen and kings of the government. They are states tool. That’s why they get paid. That is part of their job description. Free medical care, free school, free food stamps, even free cares. free tution.

    I don’t realy care to reply to Murderous IRI apologist. We don’t care what the lunatic far left thinks.

  30. Eric A. Brill says:

    Paneer wrote:

    “The diaspora is not that different from those in Iran. We are the same people.”

    Well, one minor difference: 82% of you in the US and Western Europe voted for Mousavi, 12% for Ahmadinejad. That’s a smidgen of a difference from Iran as a whole, which voted 63/34 for Ahmadinejad.

  31. Eric A. Brill says:

    leaveareply wrote:

    “They are not inclusive of all Iranians.”

    Absolutely right: only 62.6%, as I recall.

  32. paneer says:

    My greatest fear was of massive killings of demonstrators and a blood bath. IRR was very prepared and willing to do it. My own friends had told me not to expect a big turnout. Mothers were not going to let their children go to their deaths. Thankfully we did not get a bloodbath. I am glad we did not get Tinneman Square. It would have possibly put back the anti IRR movement by years. Instead the pro democracy movement chose to live to fight another day.

    You don’t go around announcing you huge demonstrations months ahead and expect the government not to be ready for them. So of course the IRR was ready. People did the right thing and did not play into the IRR hands. The time to hit IRR is when they are off guard and least expect it.

    We are in this for a long haul. The IRR carried the day yesterday. But all it takes is one slip; one mistake and they are done for. As we speak the US Senate is tightening the noose around the neck of IRR.The diaspora is not that different from those in Iran. We are the same people. When I talk to people who just got here they feel the same as I do. The one thing we have achieved is to get more Iranians specially in diaspora to support tougher sanctions on IRR. Organizations which were up to now neutral like NIAC are being voicing stronger opposition to IRR. The only people who support the IRR as their basiji cronies and the old left wing ex Mojahed/Fadayi members right here in the US. VPK

  33. Eric A. Brill says:

    leaveareply wrote:

    “the government … buses people to their own private party where free food and presents are distributed”

    You’re right: who in their right mind wouldn’t spend several hours riding on a crowded bus into the center of a crowded city to get some free falafel?

  34. leaveareply says:

    What this theocracy is left with is a small minority of religious followers who do not question anything the ruling clergy tell them because their livlihood is subsidized by Khamenie et al. They are not inclusive of all Iranians. They are exclusively blind to realities.

    No amount of lies and propaganda and superstition and threats and violence can stop a nation’s wish to be free. And that’s not a slogan. It’s truth backed by history.

  35. Eric A. Brill says:

    dabestani wrote:

    “Just look at the pathetic showing in Azadi square, and look at the satellite evidence kindly provided by Google.”

    Can you post a link to this Google page? Thanks.

  36. leaveareply says:

    Miserable failure, best describes the farce of iri’s independence day. when the government resorts to a police state and buses people to their own private party where free food and presents are distributed, it clearly shows that the iri regime has royally failed.

  37. dabestani says:

    Flyntt Leverette’s performance was worthy of an Oscar. He knows he is not telling the truth and he likes it that way. Right Mr. Levertte?? Your body language and grin sopke volumee. You little devil!

  38. dabestani says:

    For the first time in 31 years, the government had to build a fortress and celebrate its own existence inside that fortress while beating people outside the walls.

    The only thing in ruins is any semblance of support for the regime and any claim it has to legitimacy by any measure- even its own. Yesterday was a victory for the Iranian people.

    Just look at the pathetic showing in Azadi square, and look at the satellite evidence kindly provided by Google.

    This by far was the most militarized celebration of the failed revolution in its history. The entire city was under siege by IR terrorist storm troopers backed by Chinese anti civilian vehicles. They built a fortress around the thief president, didn’t even come close to filling in that fortress, and had to resort to beating and attacking and arresting everybody outside that fortress.

    Meanwhile look at the people who despite open government threats, shutdown of communications, world’s most severe assault on the press, execution of people on arbitrary charges, they still came out and confronted this illegitimate government.

    This government cannot even pretend to be legitimate anymore. The cat is out of the bag, and history is in the making. It is only a matter of time.

  39. Eric A. Brill says:

    Dan Cooper wrote:

    “Reza Aslan, the young iranian is totally out of touch with reality of whats happening inside Iran.”

    It’s worth noting:

    The overall vote in last June’s election was 63/34 Ahmadinejad. The vote among Iranian expatriates living in Western Europe and the US was 82/12 Mousavi.

  40. Dan cooper says:

    FLYNT LEVERETT: I could not agree more with what you said on PBS’s Newshour.

    You said and I quote:

    “I think the Obama administration goes down a very dangerous path if it lets support for this Green Movement take over its Iran policy.

    The Obama administration, the United States, has very, very important objectives vis-a-vis Iran, with the nuclear issue, with Iraq and Afghanistan, with other regional issues. The United States needs to be doing serious strategic business with the Islamic republic as it is, and not as some might wish it to be.

    And that’s what the Obama administration needs to be focused on, and not give into what is, frankly, an illusion that Iranian domestic politics are going to produce some government that we are going to find much, much easier to deal with”

    Reza Aslan, the young iranian is totally out of touch with reality of whats happening inside Iran.

  41. Eric A. Brill says:

    WigWag wrote:

    “Do you remember when Annie’s grandmother sees Alvy at the kithcen table what image she gets in her head? Think real hard, I think you can remember if you really try. Why do you remind me of Annie’s grandmother?”

    I remember it all very clearly, WigWag, and I think I know what you’re thinking. But I want you to “man up” here, WigWag, and tell everyone else on this board exactly what you’re thinking. And why.

  42. Eric A. Brill says:

    Jon Harrison wrote:

    “Seeking to visit Iran makes one a stooge?”

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s worth noting that the comments on Roger Cohen’s Israel/Palestine column today included at least two that criticized him for not visiting Israel more frequently before commenting on its situation – exactly what Flynt Leverett is trying to do with respect to Iran.

    (Incidentally, while one of those two critical comments came from someone in Israel, the other came from someone in Los Angeles.)

  43. Eric A. Brill says:

    “Think real hard, I think you can remember if you really try. Why do you remind me of Annie’s grandmother?”

    That’s easy, WigWag: Because you tend to think about people, not what they have to say. See my message below, which appeared in my first email. How prescient I was!

    “Taking potshots at the messenger, WigWag, leaves some people (I just raised my hand – bet you guessed that) wondering whether you’re bright enough to take potshots at the message.”

  44. Jon Harrison says:

    Why should the Leveretts dignify what Smith says? What’s so devastating about the “allegations?” To be fired by Condi Rice is a negative? Surely, given the aforesaid lady’s sad stewardship at State (in addition to her poor performance as NSA), dismissal at her hands is an honor. Seeking to visit Iran makes one a stooge? Or are you saying that Leverett is responsible for Smith claiming the Iranian regime considers him (Leverett) a stooge? One should waste one’s time replying to this? As to David Frum, one cannot have a friend among a group that one excoriates? Please. I have several friends who adhere to the neoconservative line on Iran. Because of this, I should either stop criticizing the neocons, or break off the friendships? Ideology above all, eh? What a totalitarian attitude!

    I’m glad to hear that F.L. is conservative on domestic matters, assuming that’s true. In any case, why would he need to defend himself on this score? Surely conservatism is not a crime.

    Calling people liars, or repeating the charges made by others and demanding that the accused persons “refute” the charges, is a well-worn way of libeling someone without risking one’s own legal neck.

    The entire post by WigWag is another example of his/her trying to win an argument by playing dirty. I say again that I object to your tone and your tactics. And I say again: post with your real name attached if you’re going to play this sort of game.

  45. WigWag says:

    Yes it is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday Eric Brill; it also happens to be Charles Darwin’s birthday. They were both born on February 12, 1809. In honor of the late, great Charles Darwin perhaps you could do all of us and yourself a favor: evolve!

    The point is that if I was anxious for people to rely on my summary of the Lee Smith article instead of the actual contents of the article itself, I never would have linked to it at all; not 10 minutes later; not 5 hours later. But of course, you know that.

    Thanks for sharing your favorite memories from “Anne Hall.” I liked that movie too. My bet is that Flynt Leverett liked it also; after all, at a New America Foundation conference a few days ago, he mentioned that his mother-in-law was from Brooklyn. Wouldn’t you know it; that’s where Alvy Singer was from too.

    My favorite line from the movie is towards the end when Alvy and Annie have broken up. Alvy heads out to Los Angeles (where Annie is living with a character played by Paul Simon). Speaking of Los Angeles, Annie says to Alvy, “It’s so clean out here.” Alvy replies, “That’s because they don’t throw their garbage away, they turn it into television shows.”

    Fast forward 33 years and Alvy could have been talking about your comments on this thread.

    As long as we’re talking about Annie Hall; there’s another scene in the movie that your comment brought to mind. Do you remember the scene where Alvy flys out to meet Annie’s family for the first time (I think it might have been for a funeral)?

    Do you remember when Annie’s grandmother sees Alvy at the kithcen table what image she gets in her head?

    Think real hard, I think you can remember if you really try. Why do you remind me of Annie’s grandmother?

    Get back to me when you’ve figured it out.

  46. Eric A. Brill says:

    WigWag wrote:

    “Excuse me, Eric Brill. I think my summary of the Lee Smith article is accurate. But I never asked anyone to believe my assessment, As you can see, it was me who linked to the entire article in the first place.”

    RESPONSE: Au contraire, WigWag. In the “first place,” you say? Your first post didn’t include a link at all, just your (what was my phrase? Oh yes:) “shockingly misleading summary” of what Smith had written. I suspect your conscience got the better of you, two hours and 28 minutes later, to be precise, and you decided to post the link – that was what one might call (if we one were being honest) the “second place.” Just a hunch, but I’ll wager that it dawned on you sometime during that two hours and 28 minutes that today is Honest Abe Lincoln’s birthday. I’ll nevertheless overlook your self-righteousness. It’s common – one often sees similar denial in alcoholics; sooner or later, though, if they’re lucky, their friends and family sit them down, force them to face their weakness and commit to overcome it. I hope your friends and family are capable of giving you the tough love you need, WigWag, and I hope you’re strong enough to accept their help.

    WigWag wrote:

    “By the way, remember that sloppy old law professor you told us about. Why not ask him whether lying about material facts is something that should be considered relevant when assessing the value of what commentators have to say?”

    RESPONSE: He died a long time ago, which made me (very) pessimistic about my chances of being able to pose your question to him. But I finally tracked him down (I shouldn’t say “down” – I had to look upward – which way do you usually look?). Turns out he’s against lying! Who’d have guessed? But he also told me he’d read Lee Smith’s article and didn’t remember any evidence at all that Flynt Leverett had lied. I’m quoting him (as I said earlier, when you see quotation marks around something, you tend to think it must be true, even if the quoter doesn’t see fit to identify the quotee, but I’m giving you fair warning here, WigWag — which is more than you got from Lee Smith – that I might just be making up the following quotation): “Lee Smith said some other person didn’t remember something the Leveretts claimed had happened to them, and that other person assured Lee Smith that two other people didn’t remember it either, and Lee Smith concluded from this that his unnamed source was telling the truth about what he’d remembered and that he certainly must know what the other two people did or did not remember, and that if none of those people remembered it, it must not have happened, and, therefore, the Leveretts were lying when they said it happened. Did I miss something?”

    I told him “no,” he hadn’t missed something, and I added that I was impressed that he could still cut through cant as well as he’d been able to when he was alive. I agreed with him that perhaps Lee Smith wasn’t the most intellectually honest writer in the world, and that perhaps WigWag wasn’t either (he wondered whether that was your real name, by the way; I told him I didn’t know). He told me I should confront you, tell you that you should be ashamed for stretching the truth. I told him I had no doubt you felt great shame for having stretched the stretched words of Lee Smith into such a stretchy conclusion, but that the last thing I wanted to do was to embarrass you by pointing this out on an Internet message board. He said he didn’t know what an Internet message board was and didn’t care to know (he died some time back), but that he was going to track you down himself. Apparently up there in heaven they’ve got a pretty extensive rolodex, so watch out, WigWag! (I hear it doesn’t do much good to lock your doors and windows.)

    I swear this happened, WigWag. It was just like that scene in Annie Hall when Woodie Allen and Diane Keaton are standing in a movie theater line behind the professor who’s trying to impress his date with all he knows about Marshall McLuhan, and Woodie walks over to a potted plant behind which – you guessed it – Marshall McLuhan himself is standing. He leads McLuhan over to the buffoonish professor, and McLuhan says: “I’ve been listening to what you’ve been saying. You know nothing of my work.” Woodie Allen turns to the camera and says with a smug smile: “Don’t you wish real life could be like this?” Well today real life was like that for me! And, unfortunately for you too, WigWag! Or shall I call you “Professor WigWag”?

    I almost forgot the message here, in all my Annie Hall glee: Where I come from, WigWag, calling somebody a “liar” is kind of a big deal. You need evidence, not just disagreement. Not sure where you came from WigWag, but I suggest you stay away from where I came from if you plan to keep making unfounded claims like that one.

    Remember, if you reply: it’s still Honest Abe’s birthday, and he’s probably watching. And keep an eye out for my old professor!

  47. WigWag says:

    Excuse me, Eric Brill. I think my summary of the Lee Smith article is accurate. But I never asked anyone to believe my assessment, As you can see, it was me who linked to the entire article in the first place.

    I agree. People should read the entire article for themselves.

    By the way, remember that sloppy old law professor you told us about. Why not ask him whether lying about material facts is something that should be considered relevant when assessing the value of what commentators have to say?

  48. WigWag says:

    Well Eric Brill, I really enjoyed that story about your former law professor. It was very entertaining and highly relevant. I’m not one of those who think a sloppy office is the sign of a sloppy mind but, if Lee Smith is to be believed, I guess that’s what Condi Rice thought. After all, Smith cites it as one of the reasons that she had Leverett fired (along with a failure to answer correspondence and a failure to complete work on time).

    As for credibility, Smith actually makes the charge that the Leveretts are liars. Let me emphasize that I am not suggesting that this allegation is true (how would I know if it is or not); but it is a serious charge.

    Smith says that the Leveretts blame the neoconservatives for turning down the supposed grand bargain (relayed to the United States through the Swiss) when they knew perfectly well that it was Colin Powell and Richard Armitage who turned the deal down.

    Smith also suggests that many believe that there was no “grand bargain” offered at all. He suggests that the Leveretts or the Leveretts in league with certain Swiss diplomats made the whole thing up.

    You may not think these charges are important, but if true, they not only call the facts the Leveretts present into question; it calls their entire thesis about a grand bargain into question.

    The Leveretts suggest that there is a grand bargain to be had and cite as evidence, the fact that the Iranians offered one during the Bush Administration. If the Leveretts are lying about this, it tends to suggest that their argument that a grand bargain is still available is a deliberate falsification.

  49. Eric A. Brill says:

    To everyone except WigWag (since WigWag already knows this):

    I just reread WigWag’s initial post. Let’s just say he stretches the truth a bit about what appears in Lee Smith’s article. We all do, from time to time, of course, but if you have any intellectual self-discipline (remember, WigWag, I said right up front that this message isn’t addressed to you), you’ll read what Lee Smith has to say rather than rely on WigWag’s shockingly misleading summary (assuming you care about any of this at all, and I certainly won’t fault you if you think it’s a waste of time). You may find Lee Smith to be a shoot-from-the-hip sort of guy too, but there’s no sense in compounding sloppiness by relying on WigWag’s characterization of Smith’s remarks.

  50. Eric A. Brill says:

    WigWag says: “As I said very clearly, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the points made in the article; in fact, I hope they are not true.”

    RESPONSE: Not sure I believe the second part, WigWag, but I am sure that I don’t care. On the first part, I can understand why you can’t vouch for the accuracy of the personal criticism in Lee Smith’s article: no source whatsoever was mentioned for it — just words with quotation marks around them, which give the reader some vague impression that Lee Smith didn’t just make them up but fall a tad short of what I (and you, I’m pleased to learn) require before we go off and start “vouching.” Glad to see you maintain high standards, WigWag. I sure wish Mr. Smith did too, don’t you?

    And, by the way, if having a messy desk necessarily means sloppy thinking, I confess I’m in deep trouble. As I look out at my own desk, and a couple of credenzas, I see about 10,000 pieces of paper. Dwarfed, I might add, by the stash I once saw in the office of a professor many decades back. He was one of the most highly respected legal scholars this country has ever had, and probably as clear a thinker as even you. I remember him once insisting on finding an unpublished article that one of his colleagues had given him several years earlier, to illustrate a point we were discussing. He stood on a stool and removed the top two feet of a particularly tall stack of papers on a remote corner of his huge desk and found, within about 15 seconds, the very article he was looking for. Quicker than I can find something on my hard disk. I have to admit: he’d probably have been fired if he’d worked in the government rather than academia, but it would have been a great loss for the government if that had happened. Maybe the same can be said for Flynt Leverett. I don’t know. Do you?

    WigWag says: “The points made in the article, if true, are devastating to their credibility.”

    RESPONSE: Really? Credibility matters if one relies on a writer for facts. I don’t rely on the Leveretts for facts, just well-reasoned opinions. If I recall correctly (and I do, but sometimes I nonetheless start a sentence with a phrase like that just to be polite), their claims about what Iranians really believe were based on information they got from someone else. As Casey Stengel, the salty old Yankees manager used to say “You can look it up!” You can look it up, WigWag, you don’t have to rely on the Leveretts at all for those facts. If you think their source is unreliable, or otherwise don’t believe the facts that source reports, attack the source’s “credibility,” not the Leverett’s. If you grudgingly conclude the facts are probably true, or at least likely enough to be true that it might be worthwhile reading what the Leveretts have to say about them, then the Leverett’s credibility (or not) really isn’t an issue, is it? Of course not (I had to answer that one for you, WigWag, just to pull you along with the argument – but trust me, I’m very credible, whether or not the Leveretts are, and I give you my word that I wouldn’t just supply an answer for you if it weren’t correct). What’s at issue then is whether you’re smart enough to analyze what they have to say about those facts. Their credibility won’t matter a whit, just their logic, and certainly you’re a sharp enough guy to pick that apart if it’s faulty.

    Taking potshots at the messenger, WigWag, leaves some people (I just raised my hand – bet you guessed that) wondering whether you’re bright enough to take potshots at the message.

  51. kooshy says:

    Wig Wag here in this blog we are discussing about the events of the past few days in Iran and its implication for the American side regardless of who the Levetts are and what they are affiliated with they raise legitimate questions about American policy toward Iran that you may want to respond, instead of bashing their personality why are you Zig Zaging and try to change the subject

  52. WigWag says:

    “Mohammad Marandi is an assistant professor of English Literature at the University of Tehran and, apparently, he specializes in Romantic Literature! He must be a real threat! His father is a neonatologist…Wig Wag, you are really going mad! Have you ever heard of google?” (Iranian)

    Have I gone mad? Well I guess that’s a matter of opinion.

    But the points I cited are what I think is a relatively accurate summary of an expose written about Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett.

    As I said very clearly, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the points made in the article; in fact, I hope they are not true.

    The article is getting quite alot of attention in the on-line world. As far as I know, the Leveretts have not yet published a rebuttal but perhaps they have and I just missed it. If they haven’t responded yet I am sure they will.

    The points made in the article, if true, are devastating to their credibility.

    The citation for the article is here:


  53. Liz says:

    Claims made by Reza Aslan and the other so called Iran experts over the past 8-9 months should be compiled in a book. It would sell almost as well as the books on Bushisms.

  54. Iranian says:

    Mohammad Marandi is an assistant professor of English Literature at the University of Tehran and, apparently, he specializes in Romantic Literature! He must be a real threat!

    His father is a neonatologist…Wig Wag, you are really going mad! Have you ever heard of google?

  55. Iranian says:

    For the record:

    The Iranian parliamentary committee that investigated what happened at the Kahreezak prison stated that in the prison there were many abuses which led to 3 deaths, but that there was no evidence of sexual abuse.

    The police puts the number of killed at 46, which includes ten members of the disciplinary forces and two innocent bystanders who were caught up in the crossfire when a military base was attacked.

  56. Arnold Evans says:

    I can see the Leveretts really threaten WigWag and some people who think like him so much that they lose their sanity.

    If you make an attack piece crazy enough, in the piece you grasp far enough for negative things to say for which the evidence in support is weak enough, the attack piece becomes an attack on yourself.

  57. WigWag says:

    Calling Flynt Leverett; calling Hillary Mann Leverett!

    Calling Flynt Leverett; calling Hillary Mann Leverett!

    We are all waiting for your response to the Lee Smith article suggesting that you are liars and stooges of the Iranian Government. Personally, I find alot of Smith’s allegations hard to believe but unless you refute them they will gain alot more credibility. In fairness, Lee’s piece is in two parts and only the first part has appeared. Maybe you are waiting for the entire article to be published before you respond.

    I hope that’s it, because Smith’s allegations are devastating and eviscerating.

    Here’s what Smith claims:

    1) Flynt Leverett was fired from his job in the State Department on direct orders from Condi Rice who found him disorganized, unable to complete assignments and inefficient.

    2) Flynt Leverett is seeking a visa to go to Iran. While Leverett does not have one yet, he is well on the way to getting one because the Iranian regime considers him to be their stooge.

    3) While Flynt Leverett regularly excoriates neoconservatives, he and his wife are personally close to many of them including David Frum who is a frequent guest in Leverett’s northern Virginia home.

    4) On domestic matters, Flynt Leverett is highly conservative.

    5) Flynt Leverett’s main Iranian collaborator, Mohamed Marandi of the University of Tehran, works for the Ahmadinejad government as its key English language spokesperson. Marandi has supported the crackdown on the Green Movement; he has defended the death sentences handed out to dissidents and is the son of Supreme Leader Khamenei’s personal physician. Most ominously, Marandi, who has submitted Leverett’s visa request, is an operative with Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. The article implies that Flynt Leverett knows all of this but doesn’t care.

    6) Flynt Leverett never had any expertise on Iran but his wife did. Finding himself out of a job, Mann-Leverett schooled her husband on Iranian affairs and helped him pass himself as an Iran expert despite his lack of credentials.

    7)Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann-Leverett are lying when they suggest that neoconservatives in the Bush Administration turned down a putative Iranian offer, delivered through the Swiss Government, to refrain from supporting terrorism, terminate its nuclear program and recognize Israel if the Bush Administration gave up on regime change. It wasn’t the neoconservatives at all; it was Colin Powell and Richard Armitage, both Flynt Leverett allies, who doubted the provenance of the deal and turned it down.

    8) There is evidence that Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett are lying when they say that Iran ever proposed a deal at all; many believe it was either a “concoction of the Swiss ambassador or of the Swiss ambassador and the Leveretts together.”

    The article is devastating to the Leveretts; that is unless they can successfully refute it. It suggests that they are liars and stooges of the Iranian intelligence services.

    Several months back, if my memory serves, several bloggers wrote disparagingly of Peter Galbraith for writing about Iraq and the Kurds without disclosing that he had business dealings with the Kurds in the North of Iraq. If true, the allegations made in this article are far worse. Of course these allegations may not be true; let’s hope they are not.

    If they are, the Leverett’s credibility goes down the proverbial drain.

  58. kooshy says:

    Mr. Aslan looks like he is his 30s and he moved abroad during the revolution therefore he must have been not older than 10 at the time of the revolution.It would be interesting to know how professor Aslan and his Media supporters have such a deep knowledge of the Bused in people of Iran’s political affiliation.It is obvious that he is constantly invited to political commentary programs because his views are vetted by the editors of these programs and close to what US policy apparatus wants the US public has to hear. Just like prior and during the Iraq dilemma one wonders why the US media doesn’t attempt to show a view by Iranian experts that actually live in Iran, Iran has over 400 higher education institutions but you will never see them instead what you consistently get in this free media (CNN, FOX, MSNBC, PBS, NPR,BBC, etc.) is always the opposing view by an expatriate Iranian scholar and the semi pro Iranian government view by a western scholar and the third person who is suppose to be a technical or military expert will confirm that yes these guys are dangerous, so always if you get a fair one at best is a 2 to 1.

    With all the sad events that happened to the Iraqis and Iraq, a million loss of life, and a ruined country we can count on few things that also happened to US that will take decades to rebuild if at all possible to recover. Here is a few to think of

    1-complete loss of American political credibility in the world including within its allied nations
    2-complete loss and discreditation of the western media to the point of being irrelevant even to the eye of their own population
    3-complete loss of the myth of US and NATO military effective superiority confronting smaller nations
    4-complete loss of western moral standing with regards to human rights
    5-complete loss of western countries myth with regard to freedom of religion
    6-complete loss of credibility of western installed world organizations like UN and IAEA to the point of irrelevance
    7-complete loss of the western economic currency based finance system
    there are many more to add to this list , these are big losses that took many years to build, one would wander if this would be better for the world as whole but for sure it is very bad for the west