Hillary Mann Leverett: America Loses Another Bit of Leverage with Iran


hillary mann leverett.jpgThis is a guest post for The Washington Note written by Hillary Mann Leverett, a former State Department and National Security Council official who participated in numerous rounds of secret negotiations with Iran.
Monday’s news that the Iraqi government is moving quickly to prepare the expulsion or deportation of the MEK – the Saddam-era Iraqi-based Iranian terrorist group — from Iraq is an important story that needs to be understood in the context of the post-9/11 U.S.-Iranian dialogue over Afghanistan and al Qaida, a dialogue in which I directly participated.
During US talks with Iran in 2002-2003 when it became clear the US was going to invade Iraq, the Iranians made clear that they would turn over suspected al Qaida figures in Iran to the U.S. in exchange for the U.S. allowing MEK leaders based in Iraq to be turned over to Tehran.
In 2003, the Bush Administration inexplicably rejected this offer and then had the gall, as the occupying military power in Iraq, to give the MEK “protected status” under the Geneva convention, which essentially prevented the Iraqi government from turning the MEK operatives over to Iran. The Bush Administration’s reasoning was that they wanted to have the MEK on hand to use as necessary to be a thorn in the side of the Iranian government – and, perhaps even a paramilitary force supporting a U.S. strategy to achieve regime change in the Islamic Republic.
Since the US and Iraqi governments have concluded the SOFA, the US government can no longer protect the MEK. And, it is clear that the Maliki government is moving to assert its own sovereignty by laying the ground work for the MEK’s deportation to Iran. Now, Iran may get hold of the MEK forces without having to give up a single thing.
On the talk shows this weekend, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claimed that the conclusion of the SOFA shows that the US is winning over Iran in the battle for influence in Iraq.
The story I’ve just recounted strongly suggests that, as usual, Rice is out of touch with on the ground realities.
— Hillary Mann Leverett


11 comments on “Hillary Mann Leverett: America Loses Another Bit of Leverage with Iran

  1. Everything will be Utopic is myopic says:

    What a wild world we live in. I read “everything will be utopic’s”
    (EWBU’s) post with great bemusement. The “idiot” EWBU refers to
    has studied the Middle East, lived in many countries in the
    middle east, worked for the State Department, speaks English,
    Arabic and Hebrew…and, in the article above, doesn’t mention
    Israel. Classic. But as long as EWBU wants to talk Israel, let’s
    just look at what his/her type have achieved for Israel in the last
    twenty years….nothing. EWBU’s approach — namely to dream
    that Israel is a victim of peace-loving, hand-holding, kumbaya-
    singing doves who have no hand in creating the conflict with the
    Palestinians — has been damaging to the State of Israel.
    It will be with the current conflict as well. There will be a cease-
    fire at some point soon. And Hamas has remained largely intact.
    And a cease-fire that ends rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel
    won’t necessarily be a setback for Hamas; the organization has,
    in fact, demanded such a truce all along, on the condition that
    Israel and Egypt open the border crossings that would allow a
    resumption of normal economic life in Gaza. (The crossings have
    long been closed in the hope that economic pressure could
    topple the Hamas regime in Gaza.) A cease-fire that failed to
    reopen the crossings would be deemed a defeat by Hamas, but
    as long as a truce lifts the economic siege, Hamas believes it
    will be politically strengthened by the confrontation.


  2. Otak says:

    Hillary Mann Leverett is one of the brightest voices of informed
    reason on the Middle East out there. She is spot on correct.
    Bush and Rice and Rumsfeld and Cheney were an absolute
    disaster for this country. Hopefully Clinton, as secretary of State,
    will not surround herself with any of these neocon idiots like Ken
    Pollock, etc.
    Bottom line is we need to support Israel but must carefully and
    firmly force Israel for its own good to finally deal with the failed
    ethnic cleansing policy that was a part of its re-birth as a
    That the Bush administration essentially asked Israel not to
    renew the cease-fire agreement with Hamas as it didn’t want to
    “legitimize” Hamas has led to countless civilian casualties. We
    mourn the loss of innocent life in Israel and Gaza, Palestine and
    are disgusted with the leadership that allowed this to happen.


  3. Everything Will Be Utopic says:

    So with the comments that this idiot makes we all should just tell Israel that the bombs that are landing really aren’t there, and they should just give in to whatever Hamas and other extremist groups want. Yes the educated left wing of this world continue to provide us with the guiding light of Utopia. Perhaps we could all decide on a time and clasp hands and sing songs of peace and it will all go away. WAKE UP !!


  4. daCascadian says:

    Those of you that think Ms Leverett is bemoaning the loss of MEK
    are just as disconnected from reality as is Ms Rice. Put down the
    crack pipe and return to reality please.
    No wonder the world is so f*cked up with people like you that
    can`t read a simple post and extract the point of the author.
    Scary !
    [Second attempt – The captcha bug is still unfixed yokels – wake
    “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know, it’s what we
    know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain


  5. DonS says:

    The administration has determined that Iran makes the perfect boogy man, and seems determined not to even consider normalization of relations. There have been pro western elements in Iran for a long time, but its getting harder for them to gain traction since the US needs a evil Islamist enemy to justify every failure at home and abroad and then some.


  6. ... says:

    >>In the past few months, Iran’s economy has gone from bad to worse, resulting in a highly militarized environment in that country. The situation has become dire and the regime has cracked down on dissent in extreme ways.<<
    remind you of any other countries closer to home????????????????


  7. rich says:

    MEK fought the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Shah as well.
    Why do you s’pose that is? The US supported the Shah of Iran and had the CIA train SAVAK (Iranian secret police) to torture Iranian citizens — after overthrowing democratically-elected President Mossadegh in 1953.
    “fyi”: If Americans abroad aren’t for democracy, then what are we for? And if Americans are for torture, on what patriotic or political basis do you defend them?
    Of course MEK attacked ‘American citizens’, as you so euphemistically describe them. You’d do the same thing if Soviet advisors were training American bureaucrats to torture Americans.
    “In the 1950’s, the CIA guided the creation of the secret service SAVAK in Iran. In an interview with Seymour Hersh, the CIA’s chief Iran analyst confessed that SAVAK was instructed in torture techniques by the CIA (NYT 1/7/79). Robert Fisk revealed that the eagerness for torture reached such heights that the CIA produced a film for SAVAK on how to torture women.”
    Read the whole thing. Torture is nothing new to the American military or intelligence agencies:
    On MEK:
    Plus, “fyi”:
    Why would Bush care if MEK had killed Americans? Bush is using MEK to conduct covert (& illegal) missions inside Iran to destablize that regime — using terrorism. See Sy Hersh’s reporting for on that.


  8. fyi says:

    MEK had killed US citizens during the time of the Shah.
    In a series of bombings in Teharan, it killed 70 MPs and the President of Iran, Mr. Rajaie.
    It is also a spent force, average ages of its members is now 51 or so – this is not a fighting force.
    I mean: why do you support people who killed your fellow country men? Why do you support assasins? Do you people have no shame?


  9. AndrewMehdizadeh says:

    Hillary Mann Leverett’s comments about the MEK and Iran make absolutely no sense. I cannot understand how she can say that the explusion of the MEK shows that the US is winning over Iran.
    That being said, I am quite pessimistic about the possibilities for an improved relationship between the United States and Iran. In the past few months, Iran’s economy has gone from bad to worse, resulting in a highly militarized environment in that country. The situation has become dire and the regime has cracked down on dissent in extreme ways.
    Though your average, run of the mill Washingtonian might say that this is a sign that Iran’s regime is about to change, I would not be so upbeat. Iran’s leaders know that the worsening economy bodes ill for them, and that is precisely why they are doing everything they can to convince the Iranian people that no matter who wins the upcoming presidential elections, nothing will change and the system will stay in place.


  10. JohnH says:

    What’s interesting is that the BBC reported in Arabic a few months ago that the US military was transfering responsibility for the MEK base in Iraq to the Maliki government. That was a tacit admission that the US military had previously had responsibility for the MEK, listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization.
    So the real question is why the US government–the “relentless enemy” of terrorists–was protecting a terrorist organization in the first place.
    And why is Hillary Mann Leverett bemoaning the loss of that terrorist group? Is anyone else here confused?


  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gee? Rice? Out of touch?
    Or just a perjurious criminal?
    Something tells me Rice isn’t “mistaken” very often, but instead, is just lyin’ her ass off.
    Yeah, Rice is gonna tell you things are just jim dandy in Iraq. Until Obama takes over, at which time she’ll give it a few weeks, then blame the whole entire clusterfuck on Obama.
    Merry Christmas to those of you out there that get it.
    As to the criminal monsters running the show, that have given us these last eight years of treasons, deceptions, torture, murder, disaster, and mayhem….
    Kiss my ass, Christmas or not.


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