Busy, busy, busy — a trip to Iran, a series of cringe-inducing (for non-Kool-aid-drinking readers) blogs, and then a debate. Flynt Leverett is working overtime for the mullahs. In his face-off with Michael Ledeen at the Atlantic Council, he chides Obama, who just isn't living up to expectations — the mullahs' expectations, that is:
Hillary [Mann Leverett] and I have just come back from a trip to the region and we were able to spend the better part of a week in Tehran. And I can tell you from discussions with Iranian officials that the Iranian leadership had a certain amount of hope about President Obama. And when he changed the rhetorical tone about Iran early in his administration, in his inaugural address, in some interviews, in the Nowruz message last year, this had an effect.
Two days after the Nowruz message, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, came out publicly and said, okay, if you change – you, the United States change – your policies towards us, we will change, too.
From an Iranian perspective, there has been no change. There's no change in the red lines on the nuclear issue, there's no change in U.S. support for both overt and covert activities which the Iranians see as threatening to their internal stability. And in that kind of climate, the Iranians will not respond favorably to American overtures.
But, if the United States put on the table a real author of a grand bargain, a real author aimed at a fundamental realignment of U.S.-Iranian relations, I believe that the Iranian leadership, under successive presidents and throughout Ayatollah Khamenei's tenure as leader, has wanted that kind of fundamental realignment and that they would respond positively to it.
The key is to realize America is washed up and to give the Iranian regime what it wants. The Iranian people? Leverett says those darn neocons have been expecting a revolution, and they're not going to get it. And besides, what's the protestors' beef? Ahmadinejad won fair and square:
Many advocates of regime-change in Iran – those who have been uniformly wrong about the Islamic Republic's internal politics for 30 years – say, okay, maybe we were somewhat ahead of our time, premature in our judgment, but look at the situation today. There's never been anything like the Green movement; we have to be right now.
Well, sorry, no, you're not. Hillary and I have been arguing since June of last year that there is no hard evidence that the Islamic Republic's presidential election of June 12, 2009, was stolen. I say no "hard evidence," not "must have been," "had to have been," "no way Ahmadinejad could have won" stuff, but "hard evidence." Even the suggested evidence that some people claim to find in the election results, supposedly more votes cast in some districts than there were registered voters in those districts, how could Ahmadinejad have won in Azeri-majority areas when Mousavi was ethnically Azeri, et cetera?
And in case that wasn't clear, he explains that the protestors dying on the streets are on a fool's errand: "This is not a place that is on the verge of revolution. They had a revolution 31 years ago. They don't want another one." They? Who is they? (Maybe the gang that orchestrated his tour and provides that precious access so Leverett can regurgitate the regime's talking points.) What would help matters? Why, if America renounced any intention to "interfere in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic." The regime really wants to engage America — they told Leverett, so it must be true. ("I heard from Iranian officials that they want to engage with the Obama administration. But they want to see signs, indications that the United States really does want a fundamentally different kind of relationship with the Islamic Republic.")
And on it went. One questioner, an Iranian woman, could barely contain herself. She told Leverett:
But Mr. Leverett, you are – for the last 30 years, you've had negotiations with the regime of Iran from Mr. Reagan with – (inaudible) – and on through Mr. Clinton, eight years, through Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright and through Ms. Rice and during Bush administration, and now 14 months with Obama administration.
Iranian regime is not going to make any deals because they cannot. They took over Iran by anti-Western civilization – America being the symbol of it. And they are not going to give it up.
Indeed. Back to the talking points (the regime's, that is). Leverett — and his regime pals — have a larger goal in mind: the U.S. must simply retreat. "What does Iran need to do to signal – look, I think that, in itself, reflects a certain mindset that the United States is still the hegemonic power that it was in the 1990s and can basically dictate the terms by which problem states realign with the United States. You know, that model might have worked with Libya – I was involved to some degree in that process, think that it was a very successful outcome for the United States. It's not going to work with Iran."
You get the picture. Makes one's blood run a bit cold, doesn't it — to hear the rhetoric of the butchers of Tehran articulated through an American mouthpiece with such stunning sincerity? Really, who are we to say Iran can't have its nuclear program?
The polls, which show that the public is perfectly supportive of trading off aspects of the nuclear program that might be purely weapons-related in return for better relations with the United States, but they do not see uranium enrichment fuel cycle activities in that light. That is seen as something that Iran has a right to do. It is part of Iran becoming a technically modern and advanced society. And I don't think there is any political appetite or support in Iran, at this point, for giving up uranium enrichment.
The regime continues to say, the government continues to say to its own people that this is a peaceful nuclear program. Iran does not have nuclear weapons, does not want nuclear weapons, and that Shia Islam forbids the acquisition of nuclear weapons. But I think that there is very, very broad popular support for the nuclear program, including fuel cycle activities.
The mullahas must be delighted. All their points covered, all their arguments made. Look how their visit with Leverett and his wife has paid off!