No friend of ours

A U.S.-Iran strategic realignment would be undesirable


No friend of ours
by Patrick Clawson

When officials from the Obama administration, along with other members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, sit down with their Iranian counterparts to discuss Iran's nuclear program, the mood in the room may get a little uncomfortable. Iran has been busted setting up a second uranium enrichment plant in clear violation of its international obligations, and its diplomats, such as nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, have a tendency to lash out when cornered.

Astonishingly, however, writing in the New York Times, former National Security Council staffers Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett suggest that Iran is the victim here. They accuse even the pro-engagement Obama of failing to reach out sufficiently to Tehran, and urge Washington to "seek a strategic realignment with Iran as thoroughgoing as that effected by Nixon with China." Put bluntly, this is a delusion.

One problem with the Leveretts' analysis is that Iran has a vibrant opposition with its own views on U.S. engagement efforts. Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi vigorously argues that the international community should refuse to deal with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, since he stole the June presidential election. Noted dissident Akbar Ganji, in a petition signed by such notables as Noam Chomsky and Jurgen Habermas, argued that when Ahmadinejad visited the United Nations he should have been arrested for crimes against humanity.

For the United States to align itself with such a government would be to kick the opposition in the teeth. The Islamic Republic has shown that it is neither Islamic nor a republic -- in the elegant phrasing of Iran's respected "dissident ayatollah," Ali Montazeri. And now it is running scared. The regime is afraid to kill protesters, since doing so only inflames the opposition. At the September 19 Quds Day protests, it did not even arrest them, aware of how socially explosive the accusations of retaliatory prison rape have been. In contrast, protesters were bold enough to stand next to Ahmadinejad and shout "resign, resign" when he was interviewed on state television. When a repressive regime is too afraid to kill or silence those brave enough to stand up to it, it does not bode well for that regime.

Rather than do as the Leveretts suggest and embrace Ahmadinejad, the United States must align itself with the rising alternative to the president and his thugs. Jimmy Carter once toasted the shah for running "an island of stability" a year before his overthrow. Barack Obama should not make the same mistake of presuming the ruling power will remain in control.

Certainly, the Iranian people want a strategic alignment with the United States. But is that possible under the Islamic Republic as is? Two governments with profound differences, such as the United States and Iran, can cooperate closely if they both face a common greater enemy. A common threat in Germany brought Britain and the Soviet Union together during World War II. Similarly, the Soviet threat spurred a U.S.-China strategic realignment during the Cold War -- which the Leveretts hold up as a model for U.S.-Iran relations. That same Soviet threat was the basis for the U.S. offer for a strategic realignment with Iran, made by President Ronald Reagan in sending national-security advisor Robert McFarlane to Tehran an oft-forgotten part of the Iran-contra affair.

But what is the common threat faced by the United States and Iran today? Al Qaeda is not a plausible candidate, given that the Islamic Republic has for years played footsie with the terrorist group, providing al Qaeda in Iraq with its most lethal weapons, for instance. Tactical cooperation against al Qaeda when Iran sees a momentary advantage is the best the United States can expect.

The Leveretts further argue that Iran's leaders do not think that the United States has been serious about rapprochement. That is true, but not for the reasons the Leveretts cite. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- whose title accurately portrays his seniority over Ahmadinejad -- has spent 20 years warning that the greatest threat to the Islamic Republic is Western culture, which could provoke women, youth, and intellectuals to stage a velvet revolution. That is why the Islamic Republic repeatedly jails foreign journalists and academics, and airing their show trials on state television. For instance, in 2008 it aired a TV show "exposing" how former President George W. Bush and George Soros met weekly to plot the Islamic Republic's overthrow. Still, the Leveretts somehow argue that the barrier to improved relations is that the Obama administration has not done enough to reassure the Islamic Republic of its good intentions.

Since the June election, Khamenei, the leaders of the Revolutionary Guards and government prosecutors at the show trials of dissidents have concentrated on the foreign role in provoking demonstrations. They have repeatedly described the post-election unrest as prove that the West's real goal is a "soft overthrow" of the Islamic Republic. Given their conviction that the West constitutes a mortal threat to their regime, the prospects are poor that they will accept that the West will abandon its aims just for a nuclear deal. Indeed, Khamenei has often said that if the nuclear issue were settled, the West would move on to other reasons to advance a velvet revolution.

So a strategic realignment is improbable. But would such an arrangement even be desirable? The United States has long-standing friendships and alliances with countries suspicious of or hostile to Iran: Saudi Arabia, the smaller Gulf states, and Egypt, to name a few. A U.S.-Iran strategic relationship could improve security in the region only if those states acquiesced to it. But such a U.S.-Iran relationship seems more likely to lead Saudi Arabia, if not some others, to conclude that they must develop powerful means to defend themselves -- to start their own nuclear programs.

Then there is Israel. The Leveretts say the United States should settle for an Iran working toward the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts. Fair enough. But at present, Iran spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year to promote terrorist movements devoted to "resistance" -- that is, to carrying out terrorist attacks with the explicit aim of eliminating the state of Israel. If the United States makes a strategic realignment with such a government, why would Israel go along? Do the Leveretts think that a tense and suspicious U.S.-Israel relationship will serve U.S. interests and promote regional stability?

U.S. friends in the region have reason to be suspicious of the Islamic Republic. Iran wants a greater role in the region than its neighbors want it to have, and revolutionary Iran is using force to achieve that aim, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, or the pursuit of a nuclear program. The United States, as a status quo power, has little interest in helping Iran upset the regional status quo. In short, even if it were possible -- which it is not -- a U.S.-Iran strategic realignment would be undesirable.

Patrick Clawson is deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.



benross, I'm afraid you've lost me by...

by Ostaad on

statements such as, "I think we should ban Iranians discussing American foreign policy discussions -by Americans- as long as they represent nobody!"!!! Let me set the stage by stating unequivocally that I AM an American, I DO vote which means I DO represent myself. Are you with me?

OK, your other statement, "Building up a political position based on a four year term presidency
in U.S is inherently flawed if not shameful. This is my main criticism
on Ostaad stance which I otherwise find knowledgeable and to the point." really perplexes me. I would really appreciate it if you elaborate since I don't have the foggiest what you are trying to say.

My response to Clawson's piece has much narrower focus than you have assumed or attributed to it. Here's what I'm talking about in a nutshell:

Clawson is a charter member of the neo-con(artists) cabal who has built a career by pushing wars of choice in the ME. The ultimate objective of this cabal is to punish the nations that stand up to the US-Israel axis of domination and occupation. This cabal came to the zenith of its power by infesting the GW's administration with its own agents and handlers. The results of such influence have been the total loss of influence and respect by the US accompanied by untold number of lost/wasted lives of thousands of American twenty-somethings as well as more than a million Iraqi, Afghani and Pakistani peoples.

The core of this cabal's geopolitical thinking has been the deep rooted hatred of Iran, the Iranian people and everything they stand for. The cabal has found easy targets to push for war and occupation of Iran in the form of the current despotic and undemocratic regime in Iran. 

Iranian regimes savage and persistent violations of the Iranian people's civil and human rights has been the latest TOOL in the hands of this cabal, which is heavily supported by the AIPAC and other Likudniks chicken hawk opportunists, to further their nefarious goals. Those goals are the defeat and subjugation of the Iranian people, regardless of who is charge in Iran

Therefore, I am just reminding the readers not to be deceived by these synthetic expression of concern for the plight of the Iranian people coming from Iran's enemies in sheep clothes.

That's all I'm saying. Now if you are advocating to "ban Iranians discussing American foreign policy discussions", I would like to know what you are basing such a sever and anti-democratic opinion!



Patrick Clawson

by capt_ayhab on

Know Patrick Clawson.



In the growing campaign to push for U.S. military intervention in Iran,
Patrick Clawson, the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
(WINEP), has emerged as a key public voice, appearing in congressional
hearings and numerous press reports billed as an expert on the Middle
East and on Bush administration policies.




I think we should ban

by benross on

I think we should ban Iranians discussing American foreign policy discussions -by Americans- as long as they represent nobody! Current situation forces us to become either a cheerleader of IRI or a cheerleader of U.S.A and we don't want to be either.

If Clawson = AIPAC, so what? What that has to do with us? Even if AIPAC is an ardent enemy of IRI, so is the whole state of Israel -and with a good reason- and it has never been an enemy of Iran. AIPAC may have a far right take on the issue. But it is not 'off' the issue.

As Iranians, if we want to discuss the subject matter, for the lack of discussing anything more urgent like organization on which we may have some real impact, we should focus on which policy would affect our goal which is to establish a secular democracy in Iran, and in what way it affects OUR goal and how we can adjust OUR fight and contingency plan in any given international situation.

Building up a political position based on a four year term presidency in U.S is inherently flawed if not shameful. This is my main criticism on Ostaad stance which I otherwise find knowledgeable and to the point.

We have not yet fully migrated from that stupid Iranian nationalism to a true Iranian patriotism. Ironically, one of the by-products of the policy Ostaad is defending seems to be, to speed-up this migration thus eliminating some of the flaws of his own argument!

Maybe when the Green movement inside Iran and its supporters outside were asking the world 'support us but don't interfere', they didn't know what exactly they were talking about. We don't know what exactly we are talking about until the time we are united, organized and armed with a spokesperson talking on behalf of all of us.

The obstacle is not AIPEC or any other imaginary enemy. The obstacle is what prevents us from being organized with a united goal... and you see plenty of those obstacles right here in this site.


A US-Iran strategic "realignment" is utterly desirable for...

by Ostaad on

bringing stability to the ME. The US is mired in three wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. Each of these wars that have caused numerous casualties in ALL of the countries involved, were started and left to languish by the former Republican administration with the support, and even pushing, by the neo-con cabal that Mr. Clawson is a vocal, and well-paid, member.

Clawson's beef is with those honest and patriotic Americans who are trying to show the way for the US to end these bloody wars and extract itself from them in an honorable way. That is why he is targetting Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leveret's thoughtful remarks and suggestions about the "realignment". Nothing scares the AIPAC-inspired neo-cons more than seeing the US abandon its rigid and ineffective policies designed and implemented by the same neo-cons whose ideas have been abject failure and led the US to total loss of its leadership position during the Bush administration.

Clawson and the gang he represents have never been any friends of the Iranian people, and never will be. The only reason they have suddenly found the Iranian uprising tasteful is because they can derive political advantage from it in order to propagate their treacherous agenda, which is more wars and sanctions on the same people they pretend to praise so much.

A "realignment" of the US policy vis-a-vis Iran is a necessity due to the fact that only with Iran's help the US can start managing the wars in Afghanistan-Pakistan and Iraq in order to have an honorable exit. Clawson knows this but his neo-con Israel-first agenda, and the source of his paycheck, do not allow him to admit it.




by hass on

When Clawson says that a US-Iran alignment would  be "undesirable" what he means is undesirable for ISrAEL because that's who writes his paycheck over at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, which happens to be a front for AIPAC. Otherwise the Israelis don't care a whit about Iranian human rights - that's just a pretext.