Flynt Leverett Suggests Alternative to “Strategically Shallow” Approach of Bush Administration


My new colleague at the New America Foundation, Flynt Leverett, has a whopper article in the New York Times today titled “The Race for Iran.”
While profiling the various oil asset positions and evolving strategies of Russia, China, and Iran, Leverett finishes with a hard critique of the Bush administration’s Iran gaming:

Against this backdrop, the Bush administration’s approach to nuclear diplomacy with Iran is strategically shallow. The decision to encourage direct talks with Tehran generated many headlines but was really only a limited tactical adjustment to forestall an embarrassing collapse in coordination with America’s key international partners.
By continuing to reject a grand bargain with Tehran, the Bush administration has done nothing to increase the chances that Iran will accept meaningful long-term restraints on its nuclear activities. It has also done nothing to ensure that the United States wins the longer-term struggle for Iran. Such a grand bargain is precisely what is required, not only to forestall Iran’s effective nuclearization in the next three to five years, but also to position the United States for continued leadership in the Middle East for the next decade and beyond.

We need to see more Dems and moderate Republicans thinking in these terms — beyond the binary, on-off, tit-for-tat switches that punctuate the Bush/Cheney swagger but make a mockery of serious strategy and undermine long term U.S. national interests.
— Steve Clemons


23 comments on “Flynt Leverett Suggests Alternative to “Strategically Shallow” Approach of Bush Administration

  1. Pissed Off American says:

    Con George:
    What “staunch allies” of the U.S. do you mean? Pray tell. “Great” Britain? Palau? This administration doesn’t believe in allies.
    Posted by Shaneekwa
    Oh come on, thats not true. All you gotta do if you want to be our ally in the “Global War on Terror” is be guilty of everything Bush accused Iraq of being guilty of. Just ask Mushariff.


  2. tucker's bow tie says:

    Writing in the Guardian, Simon Tisdall has another excellent report with a detailed response by Ali Larijani. Very well worth reading — since this is most probably never going to make it across the Atlantic, as usual…,,329511635-111322,00.html
    US enmity towards Iran was entrenched, Mr Larijani told the Guardian. “The nuclear issue is just a pretext. If it was not the nuclear matter, they would have come up with something else.”
    The compromise package offered by the west on Iran’s nuclear activities amounted to a “sermon”, he said, rejecting outright President George Bush’s demands this week that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment.
    “If they want to put this prerequisite, why are we negotiating at all? Mr Bush is like a mathematician. When the equation becomes very difficult to work out, he likes to wipe it out altogether … the pressure they are putting on us is reason enough for us to be suspicious.”
    Mr Larijani said American policies in the Middle East, from Iraq to Palestine, were deeply destabilising and had complicated efforts to cut a deal. “If they continue on the same path, the price of oil will skyrocket and it will strengthen our resolve. They want to set fire to the region. The American strategy is to use force to secure their interests.”
    He also blamed Israel for many of the region’s problems. “I think those people advising the CIA are the Zionists. They are pushing [the Americans] into this quagmire of war.”
    He was critical of US attempts to promote democracy inside Iran. “They said they wanted to turn Iraq into a beacon of democracy. And out of that whole venture came Abu Ghraib and atrocities that were committed there on a daily basis … the Palestinians chose a Hamas government. Why are they so hostile towards them?”
    The $70m earmarked by the Bush administration to aid propaganda efforts inside Iran was an insult, he said. “I think that money is very little, to be honest,” he said with a wry smile. “The minimum acceptable amount should be $70bn so the citizens of this country would at least get something out of it.”


  3. Shaneekwa says:

    Con George:
    What “staunch allies” of the U.S. do you mean? Pray tell. “Great” Britain? Palau? This administration doesn’t believe in allies.


  4. Pissed Off American says:

    Con George: I think I heard your analysis before. It was something about the Iraqi people greeting us as liberators….
    Posted by Matthew
    Well golly, they still might. They just gotta get over thier “last throes” first.


  5. Matthew says:

    Con George: I think I heard your analysis before. It was something about the Iraqi people greeting us as liberators….


  6. Con George-Kotzabasis says:

    The US strategy would be ‘strategically shallow’ and it would ‘court failure’, if its ‘nuclear diplomacy’ was a “paper fangs” diplomacy with no sharp teeth to bite Iran. On the contrary, it’s a clever strategic maneuver, whose opening diplomatic gambit, in its gamesmanship with Iran, has the aim to checkmate the latter’s diplomacy to continue to deceive the world about its real intention to acquire nuclear weapons.
    Furthermore, with the high probability-and this is foreshadowed by the procrastination of Iran of giving its answer to the proposal not until the middle of August-that Iran will not accept the core of the American-European proposal, i.e., the cessation of the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium, it will isolate Iran, even more, from the international community, and hence start a “stampede” of hard and effective sanctions, if not by the UN, at least by the US and its staunch allies. And if these sactions fail to achieve their goal, to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, then the US will have a mighty excuse to attack Iran militarily, but not in the form of an invasion.
    Hence, such a US strategy, will check and forestall all the dire predictions of Leverret, about Russian and Chinese dominance in the region, as Iran, either by the hard sanctions imposed by a US armed diplomacy or by a military attack, will have a new leadership that would be most unlikely keen, unlike its ousted predecessor, to cooperate either with Russia or China.


  7. Jerome Gaskins says:

    I’ll bet a dime to a dollar that Iraq will have nukes before the end of the decade.


  8. Pissed Off American says:

    Lets see if I have this right…..
    We ally ourselves, post 9/11 with a military dictatorship that harbors Al Qaeda and Taliban, has an intelligence agency general that was funding Atta, (Mahmud Ahmed), and was involved in selling nuclear arms technology to both Iran and N. Korea.
    We then unilaterally declare certain nations, UNINVOLVED in the attacks on the WTC, as “evil doers”, and show the world that we are willing to LIE about threats, FABRICATE intelligence to justify military action, then pre-emptively ATTACK AND OCCUPY nations that were completely uninvolved in the WTC crime.
    Then, we demonstrate that all our bluster about human rights abuses is unmitigated crap, as we pile naked Muslims five high in a corrider and shove things in their assholes, resulting in the transparent scapecoating of a few sick and hapless GI’s who were undoubtedly SELECTED for their positions because of a determined predisposition to commit such acts.
    We then declare to the world that we are divinely inspired, and if we consider you an enemy we will kidnap and incarcerate you indefinitely, secretely, denying you both counsel and judicial oversight. (Never mind that we have already demonstrated to the world that these decisions are being made by PROVEN criminals and liars.)
    All this in conjunction with some fucking AWOL coke sniffin’ coward like this little prick Bush standing before the world blathering on about “Bring it on”, “mission accomplished”, “dead or alive”, and a multitude of other embarrassing displays of his complete lack of intelligence or diplomatic skills
    Yep. Then we declare we need to develop a whole new generation of nukes, designed to enhance our ability to effectively attack nations premptively based on our stated fear of threats we have already proven we are willing to FABRICATE to justify such pre-emptive action.
    In my opinion, Iran would be crazy NOT TO attempt to counter the threat.
    And Steve’s willingness to feed us the party line about this threat is inexplicable to me. You want to make the world safer Steve??? You want to counter threats to OUR OWN security??? Than I suggest you start using your considerable talents and connections to EXPOSE the lies and crimes of this criminal lying administration, and work to have them REMOVED AND INDICTED.
    Of course Iran wants nukes. Faced with these crazy lying murderous bastards in the White House, what Muslim nation doesn’t???


  9. richrath says:

    Steve wrote:
    “We need to see more Dems and moderate Republicans thinking in these terms — beyond the binary, on-off, tit-for-tat switches that punctuate the Bush/Cheney swagger but make a mockery of serious strategy and undermine long term U.S. national interests.”
    And I agree with him. BUT the problem here is that for Cheney — and hence Bush — the ONLY thing that meets the “long-term interest of the US” criterion is Iranian regime change. That there is the beginning and the end of the story, especially since the State Dept. doesn’t really do foreign policy in this Admin — it’s all up to Cheney and Rummy. It leads down a single road to a single destination — and we all know what it is. State is for PR, DOD is for action.
    I hate what these thugs are doing to my country.
    Thanks, everyone, for your input and idulgence.


  10. Jerome Gaskins says:

    You know, some people in the US think that a nuclear Iran would be one of the best things to happen in the Middle East.
    A nuclear counterweight against Israel is needed before stability returns to that region. Every nation within its reach feels it is under the threat of Armageddon as long as Israel functions unregulated.
    The propaganda always shines on “an Islamic terrorist” pushing the button to start the great war, but it is Israel pointing the light away from itself.


  11. daCascadian says:

    David G. Stahl >”…diplomacy towards Iran is still being shaped by the ghosts of the Islamic revolution in 1979 , the US hostages in Iran, and the tyrrany of the Shah of Iran…”
    Sadly true & few are willing to consider that
    One facet of the equation left out in Flynt`s analysis is this* growing organization & how it might be biasing global dynamics these days; something to fuel the old Heartlands & Rimlands paranoia
    * [since normal HTML isn`t allowed]
    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller


  12. Marky says:

    Isn’t it the case that the oil companies were backing the Ayatollah Khomeini, because the Shah was going to take a bigger cut of the oil profits?


  13. Marcia says:

    How many countries, or peoples look, forward with relish to “continued US leadership in the middle east. Our presense is becoming synonymous, especially now that this administration is exporting the Central and South American methods of crush and kill to the rest of the world, with poverty, lies and exploitation.
    How long has it been since any clear definition of US national interests has been formulated? Is corporate interest national interest? Our own population is now suffering from the same ills as the rest of the world in the name of these same corporate interests–but who cares?


  14. BMR says:

    I agree that Mr. Leverett’s observations are nothing new. The fact that he publicly recognizes the inability of the Bush administration to see a way out of the dead end they’ve gotten us into should Iran refuse to deal on their terms is marginally positive. The fact is, Rice had to come up with the deal she did because we weren’t left with many options at all–good or bad. I do give her credit for realizing the situation and putting her weight behind efforts to improve the situation diplomatically (not a widely held skill in this government).
    Frankly, the US has been digging this hole with Iran for a long time. The Clinton adminstration’s ridiculous “dual containment” policy (more a slogan cooked up by pro-Israeli lobby groups in DC than anything else) started us down this road of sanctioning the US out of leverage. And now we reap the rewards: Iran gets to set the agenda by tacking back and forth between Russia and China on a range of issues while we sit and stew, hamstrung by our own short sighted rhetoric and Bush-Cheney talent for having emptied all our “ammo” on their favorite hobby-horse, Saddam.


  15. Steve Clemons says:

    Very nice post David Stahl…
    Steve Clemons


  16. eCAHNomics says:

    So why can’t Iran go to the Saudis for both capital & know-how to develop thie hydrocarbons? Is it the Sunni-Shiite thing, or is it the U.S.-Saudi thing?


  17. David G. Stahl says:

    Personally I feel that diplomacy towards Iran is still being shaped by the ghosts of the Islamic revolution in 1979 , the US hostages in Iran, and the tyrrany of the Shah of Iran.
    Part of the problem is the time it takes for those events to heal in the minds of the public; and then the time it takes for the political leadership to realize those events are no longer important to the american political psyche.
    I know I did not support our support of the Shah, I don’t think very many people in America felt that was a vital, important part of American foreign policy – but the fall of the Shah’s dictatorship has clouded middle east politics since 1979.
    How our political leadership can save face; and work towards peaceful and meaningful commercial and diplomatic relationships with Iran is not clear. You win no votes in the American heartland by proposing open trade with Iran, even as we wish for cheaper gasoline.
    I see no easy solutions – only very hard ones that will take significant effort and education in both countries about the need for stable relationships based on trade and mutual rewards.
    David G. Stahl


  18. God says:

    [P]osition the United States for continued leadership in the Middle East for the next decade and beyond.
    Continued leadership?
    US leadership in the ME is from barrel of a gun, a gun which is rusty, worn out, outdated, and ill-suited for the region.
    That is palpably absurd and as nationalistic as one can get.
    Iran, not the USA, is now in a much better position of leading the ME.
    This is thanks to Bush and the GOP.


  19. Pissed Off American says:

    “Against this backdrop, the Bush administration’s approach to nuclear diplomacy with Iran is strategically shallow. …….”
    Huh??? What “nuclear diplomacy”??? It isn’t “shallow”, it is non-existent. You are talking about a bunch of fanatics that have informed the world that we are willing to use nukes pre-emptively, and we have shown the world are willing to LIE about threats to justify pre-emptive military action. What kind of ignorant ass believes that “diplomacy” consists of us saying “We will attack you no matter WHAT the truth is”???? Gads, it is getting quite tedious debating the acts of this Administratiion when the debate starts with the premise that there is any modicum of TRUTH in the stated motives and objectives of these lying sons of bitches. If Iraq proved ANYTHING, it is that these people in the White House will pursue nefarious agendas no matter WHAT fruits MAY have been borne by true “diplomacy”. These bastards aren’t interested in “diplomacy”. If they were, Bolton would still be bullying office workers in relative obscurity. It simply doesn’t matter what Iran does, says, or intends to do or say. These criminals in the Bush Administration will lie, fabricate, twist and murder in order to achieve their goals.
    “Nuclear diplomacy”, my ass.


  20. Matthew says:

    Steve: Any comments on the likely effect of the recently passed Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act? Afif Salieh is scheduled to speak in Houston on June 29th. I wonder if he will be able to travel here?…On a larger note: Aren’t many provisions of the Act substantially pre-judging the outcome of any future negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Will this be a further step in lessening our influence in the conflict, i.e, in light of the Act, can we seriously consider ourselves a “broker”? Please address. Thank you.


  21. citizenspook says:



  22. bp32 says:

    Ah, pragmatism–there seems to be some signs that the administration is turning to that forgotten concept given the lack of resources available at the present time (I have recently commented on this). However, given how much they have invested in their hardline stance towards Iran and proliferation I am less optimistic that they will handle the standoff correctly.
    And as for the Concerned American, where is the term “forceful diplomacy” used? I much prefer “coercive diplomacy” but that is just a matter of taste really. If people don’t know what something means they should look it up like the rest of the educated world. And since when was Oklahoma setting foreign policy for this country? I was not aware of this turn of events.


  23. Concerned American says:

    Mr. Leverett gets no credit for his stale observation of the strategic shallowness of the Bush administration regarding Iran simply because it appears in the pages of the New York Times.
    In addition, no one reads the New York Times in parts of the country where this foreign policy matter is going to be decided. Can someone please define “forceful diplomacy” for people living in Oklahoma?


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