The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How To

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett have written an article in the NYT that is representative of the position of those who, in light of the recent NIE, believe that Iran is a state that we can negotiate into a reasonable region power. The Leveretts tell us “How to Defuse Iran” , providing a cookbook approach that is predicated, of course, on US actions that guarantee that we never use force and promise not to work to overthrow the country's fascist regime. Sounds good. After all, there’s no reason to believe that Mahmoud Amadinejad and the Mullahs are anything but reasonable people. Is there?

The Leveretts begin their “How to” with the following suggestion:
First, as part of an understanding addressing all issues of concern to the two parties, Washington would promise that it would not use force to change Iran’s borders or form of government. (This would be a big shift: before the Bush administration signed on to a European-drafted incentives “package” for multilateral negotiations over Iran’s nuclear activities last spring, it insisted that all language addressing Iran’s security interests be removed.)

So, the first thing we do is “promise” Iran that regardless of the actions it takes, we will not use force? This suggestion gives new meaning to the word “naïve.” Iran has used force against the US (via its many proxies) for the past 30 years. As I write this, Iran’s weapons, advisors, and money are causing the deaths of US military personnel. But no matter, if we remove the threat of force, the Leveretts are certain they’ll play nice.

Without the threat of force, Iran has a variety of options that will not serve US interests. Certainly, it will enter into negotiations (much like it has already done with the EU for the past 3 years) and at the same time support Hezballah in Lebanon, continue to enrich Uranium, call for the destruction of Israel, provide funding for Hamas, and cause continuing mischief in Iraq. What Iran needs is time, and that’s what they’ll get. Iran will delay and obfuscate. It will not change. I have to wonder if the Leveretts understand the meaning of “taqiyya”.

Next, assuming that American concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities, provision of military equipment and training to terrorist organizations, and opposition to a negotiated Arab-Israeli settlement were satisfactorily addressed, Washington would also pledge to end unilateral sanctions against Iran, re-establish diplomatic relations and terminate Tehran’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

What makes the Leveretts believe that such an assumption is realistic? Do we take Iran at its word that such activities have ceased? Do we use the IAEA to “verify” compliance – the same IAEA that has tried to accomplish this for 5 or more years?

More importantly, what if Iran does not play nice? What if they continue all of the things that the Leveretts “assume” they’ll stop? We can't use force – we promised we wouldn’t. By limiting our options, we provide Iran with an incentive not to change.

What would Iran have to concede? It would first have to carry out measures — negotiated with the United States, other major powers and the International Atomic Energy Agency — definitively addressing the proliferation risks posed by its nuclear activities. This would include disclosing all information relating to its atomic program, past and present, now being sought by the atomic energy agency, and agreeing to an intrusive inspections regime of any fuel cycle activities on Iranian soil.

But the Euros have been asking for just these “concessions” for the past three years. Iran has offering n-o-t-h-i-n-g to indicate that they’re willing to concede anything. But the Leveretts blithely assume that they’ll suddenly change their position if we make them less nervous about our intentions. Interestingly, the Leveretts are concerned about our naming Iran as a member of the “axis of evil” but are completely unconcerned about their continuing official statements suggesting “death to America.” I’m sure that Mahmoud Amadinejad and the Mullahs don’t really mean that, aren’t you?

Tehran would also have to issue a statement supporting a just and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on current United Nations Security Council resolutions. This statement would affirm the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as expressed in the 2002 Security Council resolution, and also the Arab League’s commitment to normalized relations with Israel after it has negotiated peace agreements with the Palestinians and Syria.

Hmmm. So comments suggesting that Israel be “wiped off the map” were, what, a negotiating ploy that will be rapidly abandoned if the US makes nice? Please.

Iran would also have to pledge to stop providing military supplies and training to terrorist organizations and to support the transformation of Hamas and Hezbollah into exclusively political and social-welfare organizations. Iran, in fact, proposed these steps as part of its offer for comprehensive talks that was passed to the Bush administration through Swiss diplomats in 2003. (Today, it’s clear that Hezbollah’s transformation would need to be linked to reform of Lebanon’s so-called democracy to end systematic Shiite under-representation in Parliament.)

I don’t mean to cast aspersions, but the Leveretts need a drug test. Only hallucinogens would cause otherwise rational people to believe that Hamas and Hezbollah can be transformed into exclusively political and social-welfare organizations.

I’m certain that the Leveretts believe what they write, but they suffer from the delusion that all actors in the Middle East are reasonable and will respond to appropriate offers of reconciliation. They appear to forget that there’s a very long history of violence (against us), lies, broken promises, and obfuscation, all woven into an Islamofascist ideology whose cornerstone is “death to America.”

The Leveretts worldview is childlike and worse, extremely dangerous. Given enough time, Iran can become a serious threat to regional stability. Given a bit more time, they can become a threat to world peace. The Leveretts--and all who agree with their position--appear very willing to provide them with that time.

If the Leverett’s recipe is adopted by the next administration, we’ll enter into a never ending period of negotiation. Time will pass, Iran will do what Iran does, and the danger will grow. But not to worry ... we've promised not to use force.