A Civil Debate in a Divided New America Foundation on Iran’s Election w/Leverett, Mousavizadeh, Ballen, Molavi & Clemons


Significant differences of opinion today – but a civil discussion nonetheless at this New America Foundation/American Strategy Program forum on the Iran Elections.
Featured speakers were:

Ken Ballen
President, Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion
Author, “Iranians Want More Democracy,” CNN, June 16, 2009
Steve Clemons
Director, American Strategy Program
New America Foundation
Publisher, The Washington Note
Flynt Leverett
Director, Geopolitics of Energy Initiative
New America Foundation
Author, “Ahmadinejad won. Get over it,” Politico.com, June 15, 2009
Afshin Molavi
Fellow, New America Foundation
Author, The Soul of Iran: A Nation’s Journey to Freedom
Nader Mousavizadeh
Consulting Senior Fellow, International Institute for Strategic Studies
Former Special Assistant to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan
Author, “Option Ignore Ahmadinejad,” Washington Post, June 18,2009


Nicholas Schmidle
Fellow, New America Foundation
Former Student, University of Tehran
Author, To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan

— Steve Clemons
Update: Here is a thoughtful piece at the Roosevelt Island blog sparked by the New America Foundation discussion today.
Also, here is a live twitter report of the New America Foundation event today as tweeted by the excellent Taylor Marsh. I particularly liked her last catch.


11 comments on “A Civil Debate in a Divided New America Foundation on Iran’s Election w/Leverett, Mousavizadeh, Ballen, Molavi & Clemons

  1. Sand says:

    “…Wow, AIPAC and the Iranian freedom fighters on the same side…”
    Yeah — this kind of *cough* news — “only” in America.
    Next we’ll have Mort Zuckerman just out of camera range podding a street kid to announce to the world that Iran wants the Shah back.


  2. WigWag says:

    “Broader legislation which would sanction companies that help Iran refine petroleum or providing refined gasoline to the country was introduced in the House and Senate this spring, and is backed by AIPAC.
    Such sanctions are even being endorsed by demonstrators in Iran.”
    Wow, AIPAC and the Iranian freedom fighters on the same side. That’s got to leave a few people around here perplexed.


  3. Sand says:

    Iranian Sanctions Begin:
    JTA: Reps. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) are planning to introduce legislation on Tuesday that would help to cut off gasoline imports to Iran.
    The amendment to the 2010 State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill would prohibit taxpayer dollars from going to guarantee, insure or extend credit to any company that supplies gasonline to Iran. The congressmen noted that the U.S. Export-Import Bank, in both 2007 and 2008, approved two separate loan guarantee totaling $900 million to expand a refinery owned by Reliance Industries Limited. an Indian company that provides about a third of Iran’s daily imports of gasoline.
    Iran, while a leading exporter of oil, lacks enough refining capacity to meet its internal fuel demand and imports as much as 40 percent of its gasoline.
    Broader legislation which would sanction companies that help Iran refine petroleum or providing refined gasoline to the country was introduced in the House and Senate this spring, and is backed by AIPAC.
    Such sanctions are even being endorsed by demonstrators in Iran. From an CNN interview with a protester named Mohammad on Monday:


  4. ... says:

    dons – that is what some of us have been saying… it appears to be in the interest of some to suggest part of the equation while painting out other posters as some kind of fools by saying we are only looking at the one.. i won’t mention names..


  5. DonS says:

    Regarding the ongoing dialogue ‘indigenous vs provoked demonstrations’, it is possible to believe both; that 1) the CIA has been seeking to work it’s magic in Iran for years and 2) there is convincing evidence that much of the protest is home grown.
    Two related factors: the size of some of the initial demonstrations make it hard to imagine them as solely externally provoked, as least by me. And, as far as the ‘face’ of the protestors being largely English-speaking and likely university- attending, this strikes me as a description of the leading edge of most revolutionary movements. And it’s important to remember that many more people around the world speak English than Anglos can imagine.
    As to who Mousavi is, whether he may be covertly backed by Langely, just how pure or impure he might be, who knows? Likely he is tainted in many ways. That in itself does not negate the implication that he is riding the wave of immense popular disaffection with the Iranian regime.


  6. samuelburke says:

    Steve, thanks for making this forum discussion available the presentation was terrific. I liked Flynts line ” i never saw this as an insipient revolution”
    i see the events in Teheran as hyped, beyond the realm of believability, for western consumption as a created fake-volution…i do not negate that there is obvious discontent among many in teheran, discontent exists wherever people are governed by states that are perceived as encroaching on personal liberties, the u.s is no exception. the moral highground has been surrendered.
    The elephant in the room for me was the involvement of americas’ intelligence community in fomenting or sponsoring the hyped revolution that never was. I would have liked to have heard your ideas on how or why the u.s should get a free pass in fomenting or sponsoring the “GREEN REVOLUTION”, but nevertheless it was interesting hearing american perspective of the neocon variety…and of the naivete imperialist variety along with a dash of some realism.
    Castros’ “imperialita yanqui” tag seems to still apply to the way an american would want to influence the iranian election by heavy handed regime change. in the good old days before the great advancements of technology it was an Arbenz style assasination or a Bay of pigs style invasion to name but a few, that modus operandi seems to have given way, now its more about influence and perception building under the tagline of “Democratic movements” using the internet for the “Viral Dissemination” effect. Web sites such as twitter and facebook are great conduits for the disseminators since they are inherently viewd with innocence and naivete by “we the people” after all these are “social networks” while the think tanks are used to influence what filters down to the press.
    this quote is from stratford.com….
    “Amid the breathless reporting on the demonstrations, reporters failed to notice that the uprising was not spreading to other classes and to other areas. In constantly interviewing English-speaking demonstrators, they failed to note just how many of the demonstrators spoke English and had smartphones.”
    this is from Bhadakrumar at asiatimesonline
    Thus, the first warning that the adventurous project to mount a “Twitter revolution” in Iran was doomed to fail had to come from the Israelis
    Israel’s faultless prognosis
    In an extraordinary media leak at the weekend, just as Khamenei’s historic speech at the Friday prayer meeting in Tehran ended, Meir Dagan, head of Israel’s Mossad, let it be known that a win by Iranian opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in the presidential election on June 12 would have spelled “big problems” for Israel.
    Even a trenchant, relentless critic of the regime like veteran author Amir Taheri admits that while Mousavi’s fame might have spread far and wide in the Western intelligence circles, his principal appeal at home is confined to the urban middle classes who wish the “Khomeinist revolution would just fade away … People like Mousavi and former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani have long ceased to be regarded as genuine revolutionaries”.
    this is from ericmargolis author of raj at the top of the world…
    “But that was not the whole story. Washington has been attempting to overthrow Iran’s Islamic government since the 1979 revolution and continues to do so in spite of pledges of neutrality in the current crisis.
    The US has laid economic siege to Iran for 30 years, blocking desperately needed foreign investment, preventing technology transfers, and disrupting Iranian trade. In recent years, the US Congress voted $120 million for anti-regime media broadcasts into Iran, and $60-75 million funding opposition parties, violent underground Marxists like the Mujahidin-i-Khalq, and restive ethnic groups like Azeris, Kurds, and Arabs under the so-called `Iran Democracy Program.’
    The arm of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, remains withered from a bomb planted by the US-backed Mujahidin-i-Khalq, who were once on the US terrorist list.
    Pakistani intelligence sources put CIA’s recent spending on `black operations’ to subvert Iran’s government at $400 million.
    According to an ABC News investigation, President George Bush signed a `finding’ that authorized an accelerated campaign of subversion against the Islamic Republic. Washington’s goal was `regime change’ in Tehran and installation of a pro-US regime of former Iranian royalist exiles.
    While the majority of protests we see in Tehran are genuine and spontaneous, Western intelligence agencies and media are playing a key role in sustaining the uprising and providing communications, including the newest electronic method, via Twitter. These are covert techniques developed by the US during recent revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia that brought pro-US governments to power.”


  7. Sand says:

    Gary Sick Update: 06/23/09


  8. Sand says:

    From Roosevelt Island blog — “Death to the Dictator”
    According to Rick Steves on the Ron Reagan Show yesterday — “Death to the Dictator” doesn’t literally mean Death, instead it is used to indicate frustration — e.g. “Damn the Dictator”


  9. Paul Norheim says:

    A couple of days ago Steve mentioned that certain foreign embassies opened their doors for people injured in the demonstrations in
    Tehran. He later discovered, and informed TWN`s readers, that these were false rumors, originally spread through Twitter. It`s been
    difficult to find any correct information regarding this issue, but this morning I read an article in a Norwegian newspaper, VG, which
    seemed to contain a bit of substantial information. I`ll give an excerpt in Norwegian first, and then my translation:
    “Italia gjorde det i gÃ¥r klart at de vil instruere sin ambassade om Ã¥ Ã¥pne dørene for skadede.
    Italia, Frankrike og Finland har bedt EU komme fram til en felles plattform for hvordan deres ambassader skal forholde seg til
    mennesker som søker tilflukt der. Spørsmålet skal drøftes i Stockholm i morgen.
    Men Norge kommer til å si nei.
    – Det vil ha en meget høy pris Ã¥ rokke ved den norske ambassadens troverdighet, sier utenriksminister Jonas Gahr Støre til VG.
    – Meg bekjent har det ikke skjedd at noen har søkt tilflukt ved den norske ambassaden i Teheran, fortsetter Støre.
    – Men hvis demonstranter ber om hjelp ved ambassaden, vil de da bli tatt imot?
    РDet kan jeg ikke kommentere. Men jeg kan si at en ambassades funksjon er ̴ ivareta norske interesser, og ellers forholde seg til
    Wien-konvensjonen som styrer utenlandske ambassaders rettigheter, sier Støre.
    Wien-konvensjonen av 1963 sier blant annet at en utenlandsk ambassade ikke skal ta aktiv part i en intern konflikt som den i Iran.
    Etter det VG kjenner til tolker Utenriksdepartementet det slik at den norske ambassaden ikke kan ta imot demonstranter som søker
    hjelp. Hvis situasjonen endrer seg på kort tid, og det oppstår en alvorlig krise, kan ambassadøren selv ta en ny beslutning.
    Iranske myndigheter har gjort det klart at ambassader som tar imot demonstranter vil bli kastet ut av landet.”
    “Yesterday Italy made it clear that they will instruct their embassy to open the doors for injured people.
    Italy, France and Finland have asked the EU to find a common platform regarding the policy of their embassies towards people
    seeking sanctuary there. The issue will be discussed in Stockholm tomorrow.
    Norway, however, have decided to say no.
    – If the credibility of the Norwegian Embassy is to be questioned, the price will be very high, says Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre
    to VG.
    – As far as I know, no one have sought sanctuary in the Norwegian Embassy in Teheran, Støre continues.
    – But if demonstrators ask for help at the Embassy, will they then be admitted?
    – I cannot comment on that. But I can say that the function of the embassy is to serve Norwegian interests, and beyond that relate to
    the Vienna Convention that regulates the rights of foreign embassies, Støre says.
    According to the Vienna Convention of 1963, a foreign embassy shall not involve itself actively in an internal conflict like the one in
    According to VG`s sources, The Foreign Ministry interprets this as if the Norwegian Embassy can not admit demonstrators seeking
    help. If the situation changes rapidly, and a serious crisis occurs, the Ambassador himself may make a new decicion.
    The Iranian Authorities have made it clear that embassies who open their doors for demonstrators will be thrown out of the country.”
    I thought this may be of interest, since all I`ve seen so far is rumors. I am also curious as to what EU will recommend tomorrow.


  10. Sand says:

    Another angle emerges — Iran elites wanting its own [like Bush/Clinton] dynasty?
    I wonder why this is coming out now — was this common knowledge with our Iranian experts before the election?


  11. Dan Kervick says:

    Good presentation, Steve. I think you had the best of the arguments personally.
    Leverett is in denial. Perhaps not about the election itself: he may very well be right about who won, or at least who would have won a clean election. And he is certainly right about a lot of the untempered rhetoric and rush to judgment in the United States. But clearly something is going on among the ruling elite in Iran that doesn’t at all suggest that they are regrouping around Khamenei. Khamenei made a presumptuous and strident statement, which appears to have undermined his stature as a jurist and fair referee of the disputes among the political elites. I’m no expert, but he appears seriously wounded to me. And as you pointed out, people like Larijani appear to be positioning themselves to go either way.
    And Leverett is in denial about the extent of the political damage that has been done, especially in the United States. People who have wanted to halt Obama’s diplomatic openings in their tracks have taken advantage of the current situation to delegitimize Ahmadinejad and Khamenei to such a great degree as to make it very difficult for Obama to deal with them in the future. I hope powerful Iranians who are serious about exploring a new relationship with the US realize this, and are thinking about changes that can be made to prevent the further isolation of Iran.
    The admission by the Guardian Council that some of the election returns must be fraudulent is huge. I have heard it suggested that the point here is to make an argument that even given the fraud their investigation has uncovered, the overall results are not changed and so there is no reason to annul the election. But it is hugely unlikely that the admission will have any mollifying effect, and much more likely that even more Iranians will conclude that the election is tainted, and that there must be even more undetected fraud behind the admitted fraud. And surely the government already knows this. So I think they are keeping up a slow drip that they expect to turn into a flood.
    Steve, I don’t think you are right to place as much confidence in Biden as you appear to do. He has been wrong about so many things in the past that we have all lost count. And he has hardly proven to have the best judgment about when it is best to speak out and when it is best to keep quiet.


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *