Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Flynt Leverett: Not Impressed With Your Iran Essay

Flynt Leverett wrote an essay on Iran. All the hype about it, and I thought there would have been some substance to it.

This note focuses not on the public editorial of 2006, but the 2003 essay which formed the basis for the 2006 editorial. I thought his earlier essay was poorly argued, but well written. The paper has the flavor of a trial balloon, not a finished policy document or an options study.

One option not discussed is the US acceptance it is powerless to lawfully compel Iran to do anything; and that Iran can set its own agenda, working with other players, excluding the United States.

* * *

The essay got quite a bit of attention given the White House effort to suppress publication. After reading the information, I walked away with the impression the real White House goal was to suppress the following information: The US has no power or options to deal with Iran; and the negotiating notes are based on weakness.

Flynt Leverett's conclusion is short, and implicitly assumes the outlined options -- from each corner of the US government -- are what the US has to offer. Leverett fails to consider the other options, outside US control; or discuss the possibility that Europe or other regional actors may have other options.

One option is for the US to accept it no longer has power and influence, and work with other nations, including Iran, to combat common threats. Leverett asserts, without a credible showing, that Iran's nuclear program is a military threat, yet makes no discussion of the Saudi's implicit call for the US to act in Iran as Israel called for US action in Iraq.

Leverett also fails to discuss the reality that Iran is not obligated to negotiate or respond. Gone are the days when the US can impose its will, even with threat of force, to get anyone to respond, much less Iran. The NeoCon approach of using power is meritless: The US does not have the resources to sustain combat operations, much less occupy Iraq. The war-related options have currency with those who recognize the US has no legal options to do what it cannot lawfully do: Compel Iran to submit to the US double standards.

* * *

Bullets on Problems with Flynt Leverett Paper

Illusory Closing Window of Opportunity

The window of opportunity may open and close based on factors outside the US control. Unreasonable basis to assert the window is closing; or why it could not reopen with other opportunities

Paper: Admission US has no viable options or leverage

The paper discloses the weakened US negotiation position, which would be included in the instructions to negotiators. Fails to accept that US may not be able to do anything; or that Iran may choose not to actively engage or respond to any of the three options. Denying "US invasion"-meaningless: US cannot credibly sustain an attack with ground

Bargaining from US perspective, not Iran’s

Nothing presented on other options -- other than three US-focused options -- by way of EU or other approaches, other than US leadership. S may have to accept it no longer has power, discretion, or ability to implement successfully any of the three options; and Iran is not required to cooperate with either approach.

Fails to consider other approaches, of interest to Iran

Fails to consider issues from the Iranian perspective -- why it’s important to visit them and listen: May not agree, but would understand their views The paper imposes conditions from US perspective, nothing which the Iranians would have to do, nor have an interest in doing: Can already doing it without US

Flawed, circular logic

No stated basis for concerns with nuclear efforts – paper implicitly assumes the Iranian nuclear program is an imminent threat; and linked with a weapons program that the US must contain. Fails to consider other information suggesting the threat is not imminent, or that the Iranian program is lawful.


Paper is a trial balloon

Nothing new in the article warranting concern

Most likely related to the US government having reached loggerheads/deadlock

* * *

Other Information: Addressing Slaughter's Question to POTUS [ Slaughter letter ]

Leverett's 2003 paper formed the basis for the 2006 public editorial, which the White House objected to emphasizing already disclosed US-Iranian negotiations: (1) US-Iranian discussions following 9-11; and (2) US-Iranian talks about cooperation in Afghanistan. As background, Brad Berenson, formerly with the White House, indirectly but publicly commented on US cooperation with American foes, implicitly with Syria and Iran. The White House concern appears to be the inconsistency between the White House public statements opposing Syria and Iran, while there are ongoing agreements, negotiations, and active cooperating in the shadows.

The issue for the public isn't that the White House is or isn't being inconsistent on Iran and Syria, but that the public opposition, and subsequent rallies for war against Syria and Iran, is not supported by US interests: Active cooperation with Syria and Iran. Whether the cooperating is openly admitted, in the shadows, or at odds with public statements isn't the issue -- the US needs Iran and Syria to effectively pursue its interests. It is disingenuous for the US to rally the American people in a war against Iran or Syria when the US has no capability to maintain peace and security in Iraq.

* * *

Future research

____ Review the notes and consider scope of recommendations: US uses open sources, but note the sources it does not use.