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The Race for Iran



Two of the Obama Administration’s most senior figures on national security and foreign policy issues recently have voiced support for “regime change” in Iran as a near-term outcome.  To be sure, the Administration continues to stop short of full-throated embrace of regime change as the formal goal of America’s Iran policy, as Richard Haass and a host of neoconservatives have urged.  Nevertheless, shifting rhetorical trends from the Administration indicate that various aspects of U.S. policy toward Iran—in particular, the push for additional sanctions against the Islamic Republic—are now being shaped with the goal of encouraging regime change in mind. 

On February 2, when asked by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell whether the Obama Administration wanted to see regime change in Iran, Vice President Joseph Biden said that “the people of Iran are thinking about, the very people marching, they’re thinking about regime change”. Biden went on to charge that Iran’s leaders had “lost their moral credibility in their own country and around the region and I think they’re sowing the seeds for their own destruction…in terms of being able to hold onto power”. Then, most strikingly, Biden linked the Administration’s ongoing push for additional multilateral sanctions against Iran to the encouragement of regime change there:

“We are moving with the world including Russia and others to put sanctions on them. I think that we’ve moved in the right direction in a measured way…We’re going to end up much better off than we would have had we tried to go in there and physically tried to change the regime.”

Of course, many Washington hands would hold that Biden has an extensive record of undisciplined public remarks.  Given that record, perhaps there was not too much significance in his statement linking sanctions and the encouragement of regime change in Iran.  But, today, in an interview on Fox News Sunday, President Obama’s national security adviser, retired Marine Corps General James Jones, made the link between new sanctions and the encouragement of regime change explicit. Specifically, Jones said that

“we know that internally there is a very serious problem [in Iran]…we’re about to add to that regime’s difficulties by engineering, participating in very tough sanctions, which we support. Not mild sanctions. These are very tough sanctions. A combination of [internal and external problems] could well trigger a regime change.”

Jones’ remarks are troubling on two levels.  First, there is the sheer detachment from reality that is reflected in them.  As we have written frequently on www.TheRaceForIran.com and elsewhere, there is no way that the United Nations Security Council will approve anything approaching “very tough” or “crippling” sanctions on Iran.  In the interview, Jones acknowledged that “we need to work on China a little bit more.”  He went on to declare, though, that “China wants to be seen as a responsible global influence, and on this issue they cannot be non-supportive.” 

As we’ve also argued before, it is possible that, in the end, Moscow and Beijing will acquiesce to a new sanctions resolution—among other reasons, to keep the Iranian nuclear issue in the Security Council, where, as permanent members, they have significant influence.  But, if Russia and China acquiesce, they will only do so after they have ensured that the new sanctions actually authorized by the Council do not impede them in the pursuit of what they see as their most important interests vis-à-vis Iran.  And that precludes anything close to “very tough” sanctions.  Furthermore, we think the notion that non-“very tough sanctions” will combine with “internal problems” to produce regime change in Iran is a misreading of both what sanctions can accomplish and the true state of the Islamic Republic’s internal politics.         

Second, Jones’ remarks are troubling because they strongly suggest that the linkage drawn by Biden between new sanctions and the encouragement of regime change in Iran was not a fluke.  Until recently, the dominant argument in the Obama Administration’s rhetoric about additional sanctions against Iran held that movement on the “pressure track” was needed to get Tehran to be more forthcoming on the “diplomatic track”.  In other words, additional sanctions are a tactical tool to be employed instrumentally to get the Iranians back to the negotiating table in a more “cooperative” posture.  Of course, we think that this argument, too, is nonsense.  In our view, sanctions will do nothing to generate strategic leverage over Iranian decision-making and will further undermine prospects for what the Obama Administration should be doing—pursuing comprehensive, strategically-grounded engagement with the Islamic Republic to achieve a fundamental realignment of U.S.-Iranian relations.  But, at least until recently, the Administration’s rhetoric about sanctions tried to link them to the goal of productive diplomatic engagement. 

Now, the remarks by Biden and Jones indicate that the Obama Administration is looking at sanctions as a tool for encouraging regime change.  As Flynt argued last week on The Newshour, “the Obama Administration goes down a very dangerous path if it lets support for this Green Movement take over its Iran policy…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. That’s what the Obama Administration needs to be focused on, and not give in to what is, frankly, an illusion that Iranian domestic politics are going to produce some government that we’re going to find much, much easier to deal with”.  

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett



  1. SEO says:

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  2. Alan says:

    Dan – I think the way the debate is conducted is flawed. Generally people are pro-Ahmadinejad or pro-Green. This misses the key point. Iran’s government is in effect crippled at the moment. Nothing of any magnitude can be agreed. Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani are both right and both wrong (although Ahmadinejad is really a junior in this; the real battle is between Rafsanjani and Yazdi).

    Because of the complexities of the system, the only way it can work is by consensus. There will be no progress until the consensus returns, or one side overthrows the other. The hardliners are infinitely more capable of overthrowing any opposition within the system. The wisest US short term policy would therefore be to promote reconciliation. So I suppose you could say the US needs a policy of change within the regime, rather than regime change.

  3. Dan cooper says:


    I think you are either misreading the politics in Iran or perhaps you have misunderstood what I meant in general.

    The biggest threat to Iran is not from within but from outside.

    I also disagree with your comment regarding the green movement.

    The green movement with help and assistance from CIA and Mossad could represent a real risk to the regime in the years to come.

    The fact that Mousavi’s campaign was bankrolled by corrupt Hashemi-Rafsanjani should tell the Iranian people something about the green movement.

    For the past 31 years, Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani, have belonged to the same regime with more or less same ideology, the only difference between them is that Rafsanjani is corrupt and still hungry for power but Ahmadinejad has proved to be incorruptible.

    Although the rift between them is now enormous but if the existence and survival of the regime as a whole, is threatened, they will compromise.

  4. Alan says:

    Dan – I don’t necessarily agree with your analysis. The biggest risk to stability in Iran now is whether the arch-conservatives can cement their influence over Khamenei at the expense of Rafsanjani and the reformists. Many conservatives as well as reformists greatly fear that happening, because it could lead Iran into a very dark place. In other words, the real risk to the regime is ultimately not the Green movement, it is those that can use it as an excuse to consolidate their grip on power.

    The whole consensus style of government in Iran has broken down. Until it is repaired, things will drift. Khamenei has to put it back together. In addition, Ahmadinejad is faced with having to introduce these new laws phasing out subsidies in April which are going to be deeply unpopular, and he will be under enormous pressure when he does so. He could yet be the fall guy, or the subsidies issue could be the way to bring the consensus back. But Khamenei has to walk the middle road or there could be big problems.

  5. Alan says:

    WigWag – you’re argument presupposes the US genuinely believes the Iranians are seeking nuclear weapons. I would suggest they believe no such thing. It’s like the lawyer that knows the answers to the questions he asks. The US can make the woolly assertions, demands and threats that it does, safe in the knowledge that when the issue is “settled” they can simply claim their clever policies dissuaded the Iranians.

    It is becoming more and more important for the US to have a passive Iran with a full fuel cycle in order to counter Israeli strategic dominance. Diplomatically, they can pull that off no problem. All that is required is for the US to make the single concession of endorsing Iranian enrichment, and that can be done as part of a comprehensive agreement with a variety of Iranian concessions which they have already indicated they are prepared to make.

  6. drewbreeze says:

    Anti-Western sentiment at the time involved two distinct impulses: anti-imperialism in Leninist terms, and a critique of modernity in the Heidegerrian sense of philosophical critique. While there were also popular demands for social justice, what was missing from political discourse during the era was a serious consideration of the ethical requirements of democracy and human rights.
    Other events quickly followed: the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, Saddam Hussein’s military invasion of Iran, a cultural revolution, and the crushing of Marxist and other opposition groups. The revolution that Ayatollah Khomeini led was a populist one with little concern for fostering political pluralism and and little respect for diversity. Populist economic policies and the nationalization of economic assets and resources made the state the key actor on the scene, while the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s further enhanced the new regime’s efforts at social mobilization. Oil revenues led not only to state autonomy from civil society, it allowed the regime to expand its repressive apparatus and tighten its control over many aspects of society.

    Thirty years of Islamic fundamentalist rule, however, have generated significant political opposition throughout Iran. This has gradually coalesced into the Green Movement that has been on display since the June 2009 presidential election. In contrast to the Revolution of 1979, what the world has been watching for the past eight months is a movement that seeks a democratic transition to a government that respects pluralism and human rights. While this has been taking place, the focus of the U.S. government and most of the media remains on Iran’s nuclear program and the possible dangers it poses for the world.

    Perhaps the Iranian regime’s repression over the past eight months, replete with the deaths of about 100 people in the streets, further deaths due to torture and executions, mass arrests of thousands of opposition supporters, harsh prison sentences, and the banning of all opposition media, pales in comparison to the loss of life in neighboring Iraq. But this is the story of a people who have endured three decades of repression, fear, the squandering of their national interests, and the humiliation of their country by the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It might be hard to appreciate how widespread and deep-rooted is the discontent among freedom-seeking, peaceful Iranians with the current regime, but denial of this fact leads to distorted, ideologically skewed interpretations of Iranian politics and society. While Iranians certainly want to see diplomatic relations re-established between their country and the United States, they do not wish to see this happen at the price of ignoring systematic human rights violations, including the executions of political prisoners. The actions of this regime against its own people are tantamount to crimes against humanity, and those responsible for these crimes must one day be brought to justice.

    Translated by Nader Hashemi.


  7. Dan cooper says:

    In 2007, when Bush realized that Iran is too powerful to be attacked militarily, he directed the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) agency, to set up a covert operation to divide Iranian people and to destabilise their government.

    The charge of “Election rigging” and “nuclear weapons” are used as an excuse to brainwash the American people and the international public opinion and to justify imposing sanctions or even a military attack.

    As long as Israel lobby remains in power in Washington, there will never be a policy change towards Iran.

    In my opinion, Israel is the root of all the problems.

    The western governments have destroyed Iraq and will destroy Iran for the sake and well-being of Israel.

    USA and Israel are brainwashing and manipulating Iranian people.

    Now, CIA and Mossad are using the green movement as a tool for their ultimate objective, which are a regime change and the establishment of a US/Israel poppet government in Iran.

    The fact that Mousavi’s campaign was bankrolled by corrupt Hashemi-Rafsanjani should tell the readers something.

    Rafsanjani was president for 9 years. What did he do for Iran? We all know what he did for himself, he raped Iran of its resources, now out of power and desperate to get back into power, he is bankrolling Mosavi’s campaign.

    Rafsanjani / Mousavi don’t have a nationalistic agenda…they want to roll back the clock and go against the grain of the Islamic Republic and appease the west while providing anecdotal freedom to Iranians under the umbrella of reform…they want to continue to rape Iran of its resources.

    There is not much difference between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani/mosavi except that Ahmadinejad is incorruptible.

    He leads a “modest” life as president; he wanted to continue living in the same house in Tehran as his family had been living in, until his security advisers insisted that he move.

    All the problems started four years ago when Ahmadinejad defeated Rafsanjani and immediately announced that he is fighting corruption.

    His message was indirectly addressed to Rafsanjani and his gang in the government.

    This was the time when a major rift appeared between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani the result of which we all witnessed in the June’s presidential debate.

    In my opinion, Iran needs a reform, not a revolution but knowing what the alternative would do to Iranian pride and nationalistic ambitions I would stick with Ahmadinejad until a proper opposition with a credible leader is formed.

    I wish all Iranians to be able to challenge the system in a constructive manner by none violent demonstration and definitely without the help and assistance of USA and Israel.

  8. Jon Harrison says:

    Sorry folks, that should be “scandal” with an a.

  9. kooshy says:

    Wig Wag : “Every senior official in the Obama Administration and Obama himself, have stated publicly that an Iranian nuclear weapon is unacceptable. How exactly do you think Obama is going to back away from those pronouncements? Do you really think it will be politically viable after two years of saying Iran won’t be allowed to develop nuclear weapons for the Administration to fall back on a deterrence strategy?”

    He will do the same thing GWB did with North Korea will bark for while and walks away and the US media and folks like yourself will spin it for US public that we won, same thing has started by VP Biden about Iraq prior to leaving in shame this summer, in past few days we are hearing that we now have won in Iraq great bravo us.

  10. Jon Harrison says:


    “Surely occur”? Nah, this administration isn’t going to do it, for the reasons I stated. “Painting himself into a corner”? You don’t know much about American politics, or the American public’s attention span, if you think any American politician, especially one as talented as Barack Obama, is going get himself into that position. Unless it’s a sex scandel, of course. But I really don’t see a sex scandel in B.O.’s future.

    I’m certain Obama won’t recapitulate G.W.B’s strategy.

    I’m trying to objectively assess the situation, based on my knowledge and experience. Could I be wrong? Sure. But I don’t think so. I think the biggest weakness in your argument is that you are advocating for a particular position, whether you care to admit it or not. I have a preferred position that I’d like to see the U.S. get to, but in the final analysis, I merely observe.

  11. rfjk says:

    Anyone daydreaming about the US launching a military action or nuclear strike against Iran have long left the world of the sane and parked out in orbit around Pluto.

  12. rfjk says:


    If your implying that the Iranian opposition is all about “nothing,” than by all means that’s your right to believe so. Nonetheless, its passing strange that the leaders of the IRI would expend enormous resources, manpower, legislative, judicial and paramilitary action in suppressing what you seem to presume to be “nothing.” If it should be true the opposition is an empty vessel as you imply by your fairy tale, than according to your logic the entire Khamenei/Ahmadinejad gang have got to be the biggest imbeciles in the universe.

    As for mentioning that Shiites were the major constituents of the opposition, I didn’t intend that this remark was about young Iranians emphasizing their Shiite identity” as you assert. I only meant what I said, that the majority of the opposition are Shiites and nothing more. If anything its a brake on the regime’s violence as preventing further disaffection among the Iranian populace. Nor did I say the MEK were not Shiites, which in their case being Shiites means even less, if anything at all. I had also said the MEK and the PRMI are minority resistance groups with no affection among the Iranian peoples, maybe even from among the minorities they are derived from.

    I don’t disagree that;

    “reformists are still the strongest voices of the opposition and their voices actually quite well resonates the wishes of the majority of those who have grievances.”

    Nor do I dispute your claim;

    “that the reformists are not fundamentally against the regime or Iran’s foreign policies, nor for that matter the nuclear case.”

    In fact, should a nuclear devise be detonated in a desert somewhere in Iran, the US of A is going to do NOTHING! The most the US will do is warn Iranians against first use, which is a standard procedure and posture among all nuclear powers. But to all intents and purposes the US will acquiesce to the fait accompli of a nuclear armed Iran as we did with China, Pakistan and India. Israel of course will go nuts, but the US has a tighter leash on its satellite than most people realize.

    I believe words like ‘uprising’ or ‘resistance movements’ are rather strong to describe what is basically an unorganized and undisciplined peoples movement more focused on political & economic “grievances,” civil liberties and a general disillusionment with the current regime at this point in time. Ideology doesn’t even come into play with these kinds of disaffection. Nor are ideologies necessary for the survival of these amorphous forms of opposition, which are fundamentally reactions in response to regime corruption and misbehavior. However, regime overreaction can and does play into the hands of the fanatics and ideologues on the fringes of such movements, who are hoping for excessive and inappropriate violence from the regime, creating opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist and all too happy to exploit. And as for the movements leaders distancing themselves “from the extremists,” I wonder what is so new or revelatory about that statement since the reformists made that abundantly clear from the beginning.

    And I’ll refrain from declaring your analysis of America and its leaders as “deeply flawed coming from your lack of insight.” Your criticisms in fact have little to do with my original and quite narrow premise of the possibility of the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad gang overreacting and going too far in their suppression of the opposition, or my musing that this may be what’s behind “team Obama’s rhetoric” on Iran today.

  13. WigWag says:

    You are right about one thing, Jon Harrison; the United States won’t attack Iran unless it is clearer that an Iranian nuclear weapon appears inevitable. So far, clandestine action by the United States, Israel and European and perhaps Arab intelligence services have hindered Iran’s nuclear program. The cold war between Iran and the West continues unabated and the United States and its allies are doing everything they can to interfere with Iranian ambitions. Reports suggest that those efforts are meeting with at least some success. Those efforts will only be increasing over the next several months as will economic and financial warfare endeavors directed against Iran.

    If Iran makes clear that it won’t seek nuclear weapons or if the United States concludes that Iranian efforts have been hampered sufficiently that success in the near term seems unlikely, an attack won’t be undertaken.

    But if the United States and its allies conclude that Iran has the capability to develop a weapon in the near term, a U.S. attack will surely occur.

    Already the voices opposing an attack are being drowned out; opponents of an attack are being marginalized if they haven’t been made completely irrelevant already.

    Every senior official in the Obama Administration and Obama himself, have stated publicly that an Iranian nuclear weapon is unacceptable. How exactly do you think Obama is going to back away from those pronouncements? Do you really think it will be politically viable after two years of saying Iran won’t be allowed to develop nuclear weapons for the Administration to fall back on a deterrence strategy? Does Israel want the Iranian program destroyed? Of course. But America’s Sunni Arab allies want that program destroyed even more than the Israelis do. America’s European allies, who were so skittish about the U.S. invasion of Iraq, are even more anxious to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon than the Obama Administration is. Have you been listening to what President Sarkozy has been saying about Iran? Have you paid attention to President Berlusconi’s comments on Iran? Try googling what the next British Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Mr. Cameron has had to say about Iran.

    Obama is painting himself into a corner; even the most passionate opponents of U.S. military action know it; I’m quite convinced that the proprietors of this blog know it.

    Are there obstacles to a U.S. military strike? Of course. Will there be some negative consequences for the United States when it launches attacks? Everyone knows there will be.

    But if clandestine efforts are not successful in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and if the Iranians ultimately decide they want those weapons, one thing is sure; sanctions won’t change anything. With the Leveretts grand bargain dead and with a policy of deterrence rendered politically infeasible by the rhetoric that the Administration is currently articulating, that leaves exactly one option; American bombs falling over Tehran.

    Do you really believe that Obama won’t recapitulate the strategy George W. Bush used?

    Have you watched Obama over the past year?

  14. kooshy says:

    Wig Wag you should happily Waite and hope that a military attack on Iran to come, if it didn’t happen you must admit that US and NZTO age is over. I bit my money you and I will not see a military attack on Iran by US or any of its proxy client states but we will see more barking from Washington and it’s European client states for while more. It’s over live with it. If there was a time for attack US wouldn’t have miss it in last 30 odd years. The fact is since WW2 US has only attacked 2nd rate countries and not Nations, and even at that has not achieved much but it’s ok to be hope fool. I looks like if you even be able to convince the Laverretts to jump on the war party wagon this equation will change. So good luck with your wish

  15. Jon Harrison says:

    An American attack on Iran is NOT inevitable. Clearly, pressure is building for military action, but I don’t see Jones’ comments as indicating the Obama administration will eventually strike. There are two ways to look at the administration’s recent hardline talk. One is to say that it is laying the groundwork for military action, once sanctions fail. But it could also be a way of responding to the get tough rhetoric in Congress and the media. Such a “responding without really responding” game can be played out for years — witness the course of events in the North Korea nuclear “crisis.” From the administration’s perspective, there’s no point at the moment in trying to be nice to Iran. Talking tough puts some pressure on the Iranians, while buying time with the hardliners at home.

    American miltary action now and for the forseeable future (through 2012) is just not in the cards. First, the country (i.e., USA) is virtually broke. Second, an attack on Iran would inevitably mean a recrudescence of violence in Iraq. Third, Iran would make trouble for the US in Afghanistan, where Obama wants a surge followed by a relatively quick draw-down. Fourth, Iran would increase its activities against Israel, both in Lebanon and through terrorist action around the world. The game just isn’t worth the candle.

    This administration will keep talking tough, and will use Russian and Chinese unwillingness to support a vigorous sanctions regime as an excuse to . . . keep pressing Russia and China to impose strong sanctions. That can go on right through the next presidential election.

    Indeed, recent revelations of problems in the Iranian enrichment program facilitate such a policy. An Iranian bomb is NOT an imminent threat, therefore we can safely go on talking tough while doing nothing.

    How Israel will view all this I won’t venture to guess. They will try to do the job themselves if they feel the Iranian program is making real progress. But right now that doesn’t seem an immediate problem. Of course, tomorrow we may be told something different. If war comes in the next couple of years, it will be initiated by Tel Aviv, not Washington.

    The problem with this administration, and in particular the president himself, is its tendency to split the difference politically on absolutely everything, rather than displaying real courage. The appointment of Hillary was all about neutralizing the one possible challenger for the Democratic nomination in 2012, and that’s all it was. But the appointment of Dennis Ross was a blow. In fact the administration’s Iran policy apparently is based on its perception of what is politically “safe.” The president, I’m sad to say, seems to lack the guts to initiate policies that would truly advance the interests of the American people. He prefers the safe route, attempting to please (or at least not anger) everybody — a policy that can only lead nowhere.

  16. WigWag says:

    Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett say that the comments of General Jones are troubling for two reasons: (1) Jones’ lack of reality in believing that China will vote for a strict sanctions regime at the U.N.; (2) the fact that Jones seems to confirm the somewhat ambiguous comments from Vice President Biden about the Administration seeking regime change.

    But the Leveretts should be concerned for a third reason as well. When Jones was appointed realists like the Leveretts cheered. They watched aghast as Obama appointed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State because during the campaign she had been much more of an Iran hawk than Obama. They were apoplectic when Obama appointed Dennis Ross to a senior position, first in the State Department and than in the White House to advise on Iran policy. Surely the Leveretts and other realists were dismayed when Wilsonian liberal internationalists like Anne Marie Slaughter were given senior State Department positions.

    But at least, the realists could comfort themselves with the fact that General Jones, who they were convinced was one of them, had been appointed the National Security Advisor to the President. But now, based on his comments, it looks like General Jones has jumped ship. He’s become as much of an Iran hawk as Hillary Clinton and Dennis Ross.

    First, Richard Haass and now General Jones; boy that has to sting!

    It is pretty obvious where all of this is going and the Leveretts and Ben Katcher all know it. To all but the dimwitted, it is obvious that sanctions won’t work to deter whatever ambitions Iran might have to build a nuclear bomb. The only thing that sanctions do is buy the Administration time and serve as a necessary political prerequisite to a subsequent military attack.

    Every senior Administration official has said that it is unacceptable for Iran to get atomic weapons. It’s hard to see how the Administration will be able to back away from that position. By insisting that an Iranian nuclear weapon is unacceptable they’ve made it difficult if not impossible to suggest later on that deterrence is good enough.

    Because sanctions alone won’t prevent Iran from developing a weapon there are only two options that might work; a grand bargain of the type proposed by the Leveretts (assuming that they’re not deluded and a deal is truly available) or a devastating military attack led by the United States and its Nato allies. An Israeli strike won’t work because Israel probably doesn’t possess enough firepower to get the job done.

    It is abundantly clear that the Leveretts’ desired strategy, a grand bargain is off the Administration’s radar screen; it’s not happening.

    A United States military attack on Iran seems inevitable

  17. k_w says:

    Just my two cents: It is not about democracy or freedom, it is not even about Iran’s oil (or at least not very much so), it is about Central Asia, about geopolitics, the encirclement of the Asian block in-the-making. How can anyone be so naive and think that the country that supported Thiem, Pinochet, Stroessner, bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, all the autocrats in the Arab World, or any Israely death squad around the world is talking about democracy in Iran?

  18. Jon Harrison says:

    Is it perhaps time for this site to referee comments for civility? “You rotten worm infested cheese” and such impede rather than further debate.

  19. Liz says:

    Iran is a deeply religious country and Shia identity is a very strong force there. The fact that the greens we seen as showing disrespect for Ashura was one reason why the post Ashura demonstrations against the greens were so enormous and so passionate.

  20. Ghorob says:


    your analysis of Iran’s internal affairs, particularly the Shite identity, is deeply flawed coming from your lack of insight of Iran. MEKs were also Shite, that has no validity in terms of being opposition of the foundation of IR altogether, and youngsters these days don’t emphasis on their Shite identity, nor do the Iranian people (I am in my 20th, I grow up there, between them, with them, and still have a lot of friends among them).even Fatwa from a grand Ayyatollah like Montazeri could not change the equation, and you are hoping for the Shite aspect to dominate the opposition’ derive? indeed, unlike what Washington might wish for, this is going to be limited, in terms of time, uprising for a specific section of the Iranian youth. and it’s actually going back to Khatami’s second term election (i am not gonna explain it more!). why they have dared to go to streets has something to do with the extreme disillusionment of a section of Iranian population. without valid ideology, that dies down very quickly though as the course of history shows.

    the fact of the matter is, unlike what Ahmadinejad’ close friends thought, the reformists are still the strongest voices of the opposition and their voices actually quite well resonates the wishes of the majority of those who have grievances. the reformists are not going to be like Nehzat-Azadi as some of the hard-line factions originally thought. this has a great implication for the U.S policy vis a vis Iran also; that the reformists are not fundamentally against the regime or Iran’s foreign policies, nor for that matter the nuclear case (the time they were in favor of compromise on the nuclear front has past. it’s no longer about this faction or that faction. there were time (i remember around 2002-03) that one would argue why do we need nuclear at all. it’s no longer is the case).

    there is another dimension for this young’s’ action: it’s mostly a class struggle without any solid ideology. and not all the bourgeous are part of them.

    the biggest mistake Mousavi made, and he realized now, was to symbolize his campaign with a color like green. the reformists,however, realized that now (Karoubi is dead in Iranian society. he knows that). they are trying to distant themself from the extremists, and actually that realization made such a big victory for the IR in Feb.11. now, it became so mixed that the outsiders don’t recognized the majority of sound makers are the ones that were making noises few years ago with western blessing. and yet some experts in Washington are taking these sentiments very seriously (in Farsi, we have a story for Mullah Nasreddin’s Aash! in the same way as this events. ask one of your Iranian friends to explain it in detail for you).

  21. rfjk says:

    Alan said:

    “I’m still sticking to my belief that it’s all just political posturing, but it takes a few knocks from time to time and this is one.”

    And you’ll be crowing over the herd when your “beliefs” pan out.

    The only flaw in the Leverett’s thinking on Iran, if one can say not mentioning a possibility a flaw is that IRI suppression of dissent could reach a level of violence that would drive the opposition underground. So far, considering the tactics and methods the IRI has employed to date, its certainly not comparable to the suppression used against leftists like the mass arrests and executions of the Tudeh parties leadership, membership and supporters in the 1980’s. And it would certainly be considered mild in the extreme compared to the violence the IRI would enact against every resistance member of the ‘People’s Mujahedin of Iran’ (MEK} and the ‘People’s Resistance Movement of Iran (PRMI).’

    The big difference here is these resistance movements are communists or disaffected Sunnis, neither of which have much affection beyond their own minority factions among the Iranian masses. The opposition movement the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime is facing is Shiite of considerable numbers and sympathy, if not majority support among Iranians. I believe its a little facetious to say that because the opposition had such a poor showing during the 31st anniversary of the Iranian revolution that the movement represented by Mousavi, Rezai and Karrubi is in any way defunct or defamed.

    The fact these opposition leaders are still at large and not arrested, show trialed and shot on day one says volumes about the restraint the current regime is displaying. Its also clear the IRI has spent enormous resources and manpower in preventing the opposition from demonstrating on the anniversary of the country’s revolution. Had that not been the case and opponents had the freedom and same opportunities supporters had, pundits and naysayers in the west, especially here in the US would be singing another tune. As far as Khamenei and Ahmadinejad were concerned that wasn’t going to happen, not on the anniversary of the state.

    But here comes the problem with oppressing a peoples movement of considerable depth among Shiite’s or any population. A regime can go too far and cause themselves a far greater and more intractable problem than merely dissent and rioting, as the Shah of Iran had magnificent;y accomplished to his utter dethronement. A movements membership and leadership could be forced underground and begin becoming a resistance based affair similar to the MEK or PRMI, but unlike those two unfavored groups a Shiite opposition of public demonstrations could very well be transformed into another violent revolutionary movement, this time directed against the current regime. I believe the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad gang is fully aware of this conundrum and team Obama is merely saying they’ll take advantage of it if the boys in Tehran are that stupid enough to cause it. In other words, we do have leverage and it all depends upon how much you goofs want to give us.

    The Iranian opposition movement is not going away, in contradistinction to the Leverett’s and their only point with which I disagree. The opposition is a bona fide, legitimate, indigent phenomenon being driven by factors beyond the control of the Mullahs or any meddling and/or pandering by the west, especially the US and its gang of Chalabi like Iranian expats, neocons, closet weaklings, Likudniks and Zionist barking dogs. Its mostly youth based, well educated and represents that class of people from whom the future leaders of Iran will be derived. They are in some respects the children of the current bosses, more cosmopolitan, open to outside influences and the effects of globalism that’s the source of much of the friction that’s reshaping the Islamic world. If violence is the medium used to crush such a movement as the Iranian, than it must approach the ferocity and mercilessness of a Stalinist solution. Anything less is half stepping and will fail. As it is the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime are principally concerned with tamping down the movement, though they may be pushing it if team Obama’s rhetoric has any meaning to it at all.

  22. kooshy says:

    From CIA world fact book
    This is the heart of the problem the US has with Iran,
    Just a few years back Iran was the 20th behind Turkey
    Sanctions are placed to stop this moving upward, Iran already is the largest economy anywhere in ME, Africa and Central Asia and that after 30 years of sanctions,imposed war,demonetization of all sorts just imagines if there were no western sanctions in past 30 years!

    Rank country GDP (purchasing power parity) Date of Information

    1 European Union $ 14,520,000,000,000 2009 est.

    2 United States $ 14,250,000,000,000 2009 est.

    3 China $ 8,767,000,000,000 2009 est.

    4 Japan $ 4,141,000,000,000 2009 est.

    5 India $ 3,548,000,000,000 2009 est.

    6 Germany $ 2,812,000,000,000 2009 est.

    7 United Kingdom $ 2,165,000,000,000 2009 est.

    8 France $ 2,113,000,000,000 2009 est.

    9 Russia $ 2,103,000,000,000 2009 est.

    10 Brazil $ 2,024,000,000,000 2009 est.

    11 Italy $ 1,756,000,000,000 2009 est.

    12 Mexico $ 1,473,000,000,000 2009 est.

    13 Spain $ 1,367,000,000,000 2009 est.

    14 Korea, South $ 1,343,000,000,000 2009 est.

    15 Canada $ 1,287,000,000,000 2009 est.

    16 Indonesia $ 968,500,000,000 2009 est.

    17 Iran $ 876,000,000,000 2009 est.

    18 Turkey $ 861,600,000,000 2009 est.

    19 Australia $ 819,000,000,000 2009 est.

    20 Taiwan $ 693,300,000,000 2009 est.

  23. Samuel says:


    Your excessive moralizing is ridiculous in the context of American foreign policy in the region. Iran today is far more democratic than the overwhelming majority of other Middle Eastern countries with whom America enjoys excellent relations. Let’s go through the list: Mubarak is for all intents and purposes president for life of Egypt and his son is waiting in the wings; Saudi Arabia? Enough said. Jordan-a monarchy which favors its Bedouin minority and has crushed Palestinian uprisings in the past. (See for example “Black September”) Israel? Well it’s a democracy for jews just like South Africa was a democracy for whites. It truly is an Apartheid country in the 21st century.

    Iraq under Saddam? Saddam would match the number of demonstrators killed in the recent post election disturbances most mornings before lunch.

    The point is that given its neighborhood the govt. of the IRI is pacifist by comparison, yet the international community seeks to portray Iran as the second coming of Hitler. Why isn’t anyone else outraged by such ridiculous comparisons?

    Iran is such a dictatorship that members of Parliament routinely denounce the President, mocking him relentlessly and the Supreme Leader has to try to convince the Parliament to confirm a proposed cabinet. A mathematics student stands up to agressively question the Supreme Leader and no one touches a single hair on his head. Compare this to the situation in most of America’s regional allies.

  24. Paneer says:

    For Dan Cooper:

    You can contact me at giardiaa@gmail.com

    No quisling need not email me…

  25. Paneer says:

    Iranian: I just read your crazy statement. Quisling, don’t you understand that it’s not about what me or you??? Facts won’t change, and you know it too and that’s why you are so desparate that you have to rely on an ex-neocon and a former CIA to find some semblence of legitimacy…It’s embarrassing to see an Iranian in this position.

    Utterly tragic!

  26. Fiorangela Leone says:

    Don wrote: “Since I din’t think anybody in authority in the State Dept has ever been to Iran, they probably wouldn’t know that.”

    Can’t find the website that listed government trips abroad over the past N years; if I recall correctly, it reported that 897 trips had been made to Israel. None were listed under destination: Iran.

    Here’s a wild proposal: How about our government’s leaders and their aides actually visit Iran and learn about it BEFORE they attempt to reshape it to their own image and likeness, starve its people, kill its children, bomb it, destroy it?
    Just a suggestion.

  27. Paneer says:

    Don’t bother responding because I will not be back to read them.

  28. Paneer says:

    I have never seen such a group of dangerously uninformed, opportunistic, bigotted, willingly ignorant, morally bankrupt group of people in one place; hence, never really cared to respond seriously….

    The majority of Iranians do not support the regime but do not want a civil war. Read my previous comments and don’t take things out of context.

    The greens are the silent ruthlessly brutalized majority much to your chagrin, the evidence is overwhelming (31 years worth of evidence)

    A bit of common sense will also lead you that conclusion. Unlese you view Iranians as a bunch of Islamist savage brutes who love to be oppressed. Those who try to marginalize the Iranian people are self-serving opportunists who one way or another are using Iran’s national wealth as their personal ATM.

    It is disheartning to see so many vultures politicizing peoples sufferings and pain for profiteering.

    Mr. Leverette: You are not a friend of Iranian people…and you will be remembered for your contribution to the misery of Irnaian people.

    For people like Dan Cooper and John H, who geuninely care about Iran, are are too uninformed to understand the complexties of Iran situation. I wish you more courage and compassion. I hope someday you realize the immorality of your stance on Iran.

  29. Fiorangela Leone says:

    Sanctions are wrong because they are wrong. Whatever happened to the concept of a Moral Compass undergirding American values?

    Last September, Trinity Washington University held a conference titled “Death by Sanctions: The Conference to Ban Economic Sanctions” http://www.namaw.org/Conferences_and_Events.html The conference was organized by the National Association of Muslim American Women (NAMAW) under the leadership of Anisa Abd el Fattah, Ph.D.

    When the USofA sanctioned to their death half-a-million Iraqis, Americans could rely on a moral equivocation to absolve themselves: “We didn’t know….”
    Now we know the evil that follows on from sanctions. Patrick Clawson, frequently called the go-to guy when neocons need seeming-expert denunciation of Iran, under contract to National Defense University Institute for National Strategic Studies prepared a kind of tally of the effect of sanctions on Iraqis — what was the caloric intake? what was the effect of THIS level of restriction of caloric intake? how about THIS greater restriction of caloric intake? Who dies faster, infants or old people?
    Clawson also penned an essay examining the morality of sanctions, and analysed the proposition that it is appropriate to impose sanctions on an “innocent” civilian population because they may have voted for their oppressive government that is the real target of the sanctions (that is, the voting population should have enacted regime change; their failure to have done so legitimately exposes them to the mortal effect of sanctions); or, if they did NOT vote for their their government, but their government is oppressive [in whose view?] the citizens under that ‘oppressive’ government have the obligation to overthrow their oppressor, and their failure to do so legitimately exposes them to the possibly-mortal effect of sanctions.

  30. Don Liebich says:

    It might be cool to consider what Iranians want. My conclusion, after talking to Iranians inside Iran, is that most want the regime to change not regime change. Since I din’t think anybody in authority in the State Dept has ever been to Iran, they probably wouldn’t know that.

  31. Iranian says:

    The rallies were so enormous that even Paneer has accepted the strength and popularity of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is a positive sign, because this is exactly what the Obama regime needs to understand. They can not win in any confrontation with Iran.

  32. Liz says:

    Paneer, you should stop insulting the Iranian people. In any case, everyone sees how you contradict yourself. Earlier you said that everyone supported the greens and now that the truth has come out you compare Iranians to Nazi supporters! Pathetic.

  33. @Paneer says:

    As many already have pointed out, you just confirmed that the Green movement is a minority

    What’s interesting is that only fanatic Zionists use the “New Hitler” comparison… Were subtle m8

    You rotten worm infested cheese you

  34. Alan says:

    This is concerning, as I believe Jim Jones to be a rather more balanced individual than the average politician, and as such something of a weather vane for policy direction.

    I’m still sticking to my belief that it’s all just political posturing, but it takes a few knocks from time to time and this is one.

  35. Nima Molavi says:

    Having seen Obama perform for a year now, it appears that he would rather continue failed US policies than take the political risks necessary to change US foreign policy.

    Anyone familiar with the course of events that led to the iraq war should be very concerned with the rhetoric Obama seems to have endorsed in dealing with Iran.

    Obama may not want a war, but like Bush, he is following the advice of individuals who would love nothing more than to see the US involved in yet another mid-east war. As a 2008 Obama supporter, I can’t express my level of disappointment with him.

  36. kooshy says:

    Dan I agree with your last post but just one correction except where you say “This is the price American government has been prepared to pay in order to change a regime in Iraq and replace it by a puppet government to look after the interests of US and Israel in the region.” I don’t think they were prepared for such a cost on Iraq and according to the now famous testimony by Mr. Wolfowitz to the senate foreign relations committee the max cost was not to exceed a few billions and the rest was going to be paid by Iraqi oil. It is obvious that the price tag and the duration were not expected. The American war planers clearly thought that the 10 years of the sanctions had completely demoralized the Iraqis that they will open their arms for the coming Americans with cigarettes and candies like in Europe post ww2. We now know it was a stupid thought like the whole Nam planning. Do you know the only reason that the Iraqis didn’t behave like the Americans expected to it was dignity.

  37. Dan cooper says:


    You must be politically naive to think that CIA and MOSSAD are not active in Iran.

    Have you studied this link?


    If you have, please let me know what you think?

    There are also some usfull links attached to the above site.

    So far, American government has lost nearly 5000 soldiers, spent over 900 billion dollars, killed, and maimed over one million Iraqis?

    This is the price American government has been prepared to pay in order to change a regime in Iraq and replace it by a puppet government to look after the interests of US and Israel in the region.

    Now you are suggesting that USA and Israel have not been involved with what has happened in Iran.

    Panner: please wake up, both CIA and Mossad are exteremly active in Iran because;

    To American government, “Iran” is more important and worth much more than “Iraq”

    USA and Israel are aware that an attack on Iran will have “catastrophic consequences”; instead, and for the time being, The CIA and Mossad plan for Iran is an agenda to maintain division and instability.

    According to your logic, Iraqi people must blame themselves for what happened to their country and not the USA.

    In the same token, British and American had been stealing stole oil from Iran for 70 long years(from 1909 to 1979) and toppled the democratically elected Dr Mohammad Mosadegh, again according to your logic, Iranian must not blame the British and Americans and should only blame themselves, this is absurd.

    Regimes come and go and you have the right to be against IRI, but do not scarify “Iran” for the sake of your ideology. The threat from USA and Israel is real.

    If they manage to destabilize the Iranian government, there will be a civil war and bloodsheds, the like of which we have not seen before and Iran most certainly will be divided “as did Soviet Union” into smaller countries such as Kurdistan, lurestan, Azarbiyajan and Baluchistan, etc

    If you consider the Mullas to be your enemy and the USA, the enemy of Mullas, please always remember this:

    The enemy of your enemy is not your friend.

  38. Dan cooper says:


    In your previous posts, you have desperately been trying to portray that the oppositions form the majority in Iran however; you have just confirmed that the supporters of Ahmadinejad’s government represent the majority of Iranian people.

    In any country, you have to respect the wishes of the majority even if you do not agree with their policies.

  39. Lysander says:

    “Millions of Germans supported Hitler and the Nazis while only a small German minority opposed them. So were those millions right because they were far greater in numbers? Many of them would later tell you that they were tricked and lied to and they were ashamed of the support they gave Hitler.”

    Leaving aside the daft comparison between Iran and Nazi Germany, are you now admitting there are millions of Iranians who support the IRI and only a handful opposed?

    “Now, if you had not backed yourself into a corner by marginalizing the green movement, you could have used that as a leverage to bring the IRI IRGC commanders into a negotiating table…Ironic, isn’t it.”

    I think they did everything they could to make the Green Movement seem bigger than it was. Alas it did not work. I’m sure they will keep on trying, though, and in the meantime Iran will advance its nuclear program, consolidate its influence over Iraq and continue towards it objective of changing the regional balance of power more in its favor.

  40. Pirouz says:

    Jones is firmly in the pocket of AIPAC.

  41. Paneer says:

    Obama Administration should be doing—pursuing comprehensive, strategically-grounded engagement with the Islamic Republic to achieve a fundamental realignment of U.S.-Iranian relations. But, at least until recently, the Administration’s rhetoric about sanctions tried to link them to the goal of productive diplomatic engagement.

    IRI is not interested in a grand bargain because there is no need. They know the US cannot afford to start another war so it follows that there is no need for grand bargain. The US has no leverage.

    Now, if you had not backed yourself into a corner by marginalizing the green movement, you could have used that as a leverage to bring the IRI IRGC commanders into a negotiating table…Ironic, isn’t it.

  42. Paneer says:

    Millions of Germans supported Hitler and the Nazis while only a small German minority opposed them. So were those millions right because they were far greater in numbers? Many of them would later tell you that they were tricked and lied to and they were ashamed of the support they gave Hitler.

    The ignorance of the masses should not be an obstacle or a reason to stop striving for a fair and democratic Iran. They will in time realize that they were nothing but pawns in the dirty hands of the present rulers.