Book TV: Leverett, “Going to Tehran”

Here is a very interesting book presentation by Flynt Leverett and Hilary Man Leverett, hosted by the EastWest Institute in New York City. 

According to BookTV they “argue that the U.S. needs to change its policy towards the government of Iran, which they say is a rational actor that will play a leading role in the Middle East for many years to come.”

They essentially believe that US position and influence in the region is in decline while the opposite is happening to Iran’s position.

To them, one of the biggest reasons why US position is in decline is because of what they call “dysfunctional US policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

For years the Leveretts have said that the US must pursue a “grand bargain” with Iran.

The presentation is certainly interesting, but I will be in no hurry to buy their book. The Leveretts believe that Iran’s 2009 elections were in fact genuine, and that the people of Iran support the regime in great numbers. They pay little attention to the regime’s abuse of human rights which has been carried out on a massive scale. This makes their analysis very one sided.

I also believe that their perception of the Iranian government’s influence in the region is greatly exaggerated. If anything, the Arab Spring has been terrible news for the Iranian regime. Let just start by what is happening in Syria and its impact on Iran – Turkey relations. Even Iran’s ally Nouri Al Maliki is under pressure in Iraq. Not to mention Hamas distancing itself from Tehran because of the massacres in Syria of Sunnis and Palestinians. It seems that to the Leveretts these are merely details which have no impact on Iran’s position in the Middle East.

A Worthwhile Initiative By Former Iranian Parliamentarians

A number of former Iranian parliamentarians who served in Iran’s parliament after the revolution and now live in the West have penned a very thoughtful and interesting letter in Huffington Post addressed to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, US president Barack Obama and EU chief nuclear negotiator Catherine Ashton.

In the letter steps to defuse the current tension between Iran and the P5+1 have been suggested.

I strongly back the letter and their call for the following reasons:

  1. It places emphasis on the need for Iran and the US to hold bilateral talks. This is very important and necessary. The US and Iran must start talking directly. I believe that such talks are a win – win for everyone. They empower the moderates inside Iran, they enable the US to have a better understanding of how the Iranian government works and establish direct channels of communication. I am not saying that this will be easy. I don’t believe that Iran’s leader Khamenei would welcome such a development as he has refused previous offers of bilateral talk, however the US would have nothing to lose by trying again. And if we can solve the crisis through diplomacy, then all the better for Israel. 
  2. It emphasizes the step by step approach where all sides have to make compromises incrementally and gradually until we get to the desired results. Iran gets to enrich uranium on its soil on a limited scale and in return Tehran assures the West ensures that it’s not working on a bomb by agreeing to a tough inspection and regime and cessation of uranium enrichment at 20% on its soil.  In the past I have also advocated similar step by step approach as well as enrichment on limited scale on Iranian soil in return for the aforementioned guarantees.  It was even mentioned by the press in Iran. The more we come up with new ways of doing this, the more the politicians on both sides may finally listen.

Although I have nothing to prove it, I strongly believe that there are quite of number of Iranian politicians who agree with the content of this new letter, but they just can’t say it because they could get into trouble with the regime.

Here is the letter again. I congratulate its authors.

No one wants a nuclear armed regime in Iran and ultimately the best way to get there is through talks, if possible.