Speaking at the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference in Washington, Hillary pointed out that “for over 30 years, we in the United States—and particularly here in Washington—have put forward a series of myths about the Islamic Republic of Iran: that it’s irrational, illegitimate, and vulnerable. And in so doing, we have consistently misled the American public and our allies about what policies will work” to deal with the Islamic Republic.
–The title of the panel on which Hillary appeared was itself revealing about continuing influence of America’s Iran mythology on contemporary discussion of Iran-related issues in Washington: “American and Arab Policy Successes and Shortcomings Regarding the Regional Geopolitical Dynamics of Iran.”
–To watch the panel, see here.
–Viewing the panel in its entirety says much about the present state of America’s Iran debate: the other panelists include Alireza Nader of the RAND Corporation (who embodies DC conventional wisdom on Iran) and Trita Parsi (who has made his own signal contributions to America’s Iran mythology, especially after the Islamic Republic’s 2009 presidential election), with Ken Katzman of the Congressional Research Service as a discussant. For those who just want to hear Hillary, go 21:20 into the video.
Picking up on the theme of America’s persistent Iran mythology, Hillary notes that, “for over 30 years, the Islamic Republic has defied constant predictions of its collapse or defeat. But American policy elites still put forward myths about the Islamic Republic that ignore or, in fact, contradict basic forces driving political life inside the Islamic Republic—with the idea that if we just believed these myths enough, if we just believed, we’d see how to deal with the Islamic Republic.”
Extending here argument, Hillary explains that the most dangerous of these myths is “the depiction of the Islamic Republic as a system so despised by its own population [that] it is in imminent danger of , in imminent danger of overthrow—a vulnerability that, in the prevailing view here in Washington, can be exploited by the United States and out allies.” Today, she notes, “this idea comes out in two interlocking arguments:
–The first is that sanctions are ‘working.’
–The second is that the Arab Awakening has left the Islamic Republic isolated in its very own neighborhood.”
–And, of course, “with sanctions ‘working,’ some policy elites argue that Iranians will rise up to force fundamental political change, and to force their government to make concessions.”
Against these myths, Hillary’s presentation offers a bracing demonstration of “how it is American elites, not those in Tehran, who are in denial about basic political trends in the Middle East.”
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett