Monday, December 18, 2006

Leverett's op-ed

* emptywheel:
"The Administration's efforts in the Middle East are strengthening Iran. The options the Neocons would pursue--bombing and more stalling--are bound to fail. The only appropriate action is to negotiate a "grand bargain" with Iran, in which we forgo our policy of regime change in exchange for some assurances that Iran will not pursue a nuclear weapon (it is too late, Leverett says, to prevent it from getting the technology). Past history--particularly our cooperation with Iran during the Afghan war and the offer Iran made to us in 2003--shows that Iran would be willing to pursue a "grand bargain."

But I guess that's why they don't want you to read Leverett's 1000 words. If you read them, you would know that the bloodshed and failure coming our way are not--at least were not--the only option."
she also (virtually (update - see below*)) has Leverett's op-ed that the WH refuses to allow the NYT to publish. here tis:
As a result of the Bush administration’s reluctance to develop a comprehensive diplomatic approach to dealing with the Islamic Republic during the past five years, the chances that the United States and its allies will be able to reach this kind of strategic understanding with Tehran and forestall Iran’s effective nuclearization are decreasing. Already, the quality of the package that might be negotiated has declined in some respects: three years ago, when Iran offered to negotiate a grand bargain with the United States, it probably would have been possible to conclude a deal prohibiting the enrichment of uranium within Iran; at this point, any agreement acceptable to Tehran would almost certainly have to permit operation of a closely monitored pilot facility for enrichment in Iran.


There is little prospect that the United States will muster sufficient multilateral economic and political pressure—through the United Nations Security Council or on a “coalition of the willing” basis—to leverage changes in Iranian behavior, especially on the nuclear issue.


Numerous analyses have raised serious doubts that U.S. military strikes against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would delay significantly its nuclear development, because of profound uncertainty about the reliability and comprehensiveness of target selection, the possibility that “unknown” facilities are at least as close to producing weapons-grade fissile material as “known” facilities, and the prospect that Tehran could reconstitute its nuclear program relatively rapidly. At the same time, U.S. military action against Iran almost certainly would have profoundly negative consequences for a range of other U.S. interests.

There also is no reasonable basis for believing that the United States could bring about regime change in Iran, either by “decapitating” the Islamic Republic’s leadership in the course of military strikes against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure or by supporting Iranian opposition groups under the cover of “democracy promotion.” More significantly, it is highly uncertain that regime change could be effected on a strategically meaningful timetable for dealing with the nuclear threat.

As Iranian officials have repeatedly made clear in diplomatic exchanges and private conversations, Iran will not agree to strategically meaningful restraints on the development of its nuclear infrastructure without having its core security concerns addressed. This means that Tehran will require, among other things, a security guarantee from Washington—effectively a commitment that the United States will not use force to change the borders or form of government of the Islamic Republic of Iran—bolstered by the prospect of a lifting of U.S. unilateral sanctions and normalization of bilateral relations.


In essence, the United States needs to pursue a “grand bargain” with the Islamic Republic—that is, a broad-based strategic understanding in which all of the outstanding bilateral differences between the two countries would be resolved as a package. Implementation of the reciprocal commitments entailed in a grand bargain would almost certainly play out over time and probably in phases, but all of thecommitments would be agreed as a package.


Unfortunately, the Bush administration is moving at a glacial pace, if at all, toward such an approach. Throughout the administration’s first term in office, the president and his senior national security and foreign policy advisers seemed collectively unable to deal with the imperatives of a comprehensive diplomatic strategy toward Iran. While there have been some tactical adjustments since the beginning of President Bush’s second term, the fundamental strategic deficit in the administration’s approach remains uncorrected. To be sure, for a year and a half after September 11, the administration pursued a limited tactical engagement with Iran with regard to Afghanistan. Well before President Bush took office in January 2001, the United States had joined the United Nations’ “6+2” framework for Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration used the cover of the “6+2” process to stand up what was effectively a freestanding bilateral channel with Iran, with regular (for the most part, monthly) meetings between U.S. and Iranian diplomats.

U.S. engagement with Tehran over Afghanistan provided significant and tangible benefits for the American position during the early stages of the war on terror. At a minimum, U.S. engagement with Tehran helped to neutralize the threat of Iranian actions on the ground, either by Afghan proxies or by Iranian intelligence and paramilitary assets, which could have made prosecution of Operation Enduring Freedom and subsequent post-conflict stabilization more difficult. More positively, engagement elicited crucial diplomatic cooperation from Iran, both during the war and afterwards. Over years, Iran had cultivated
extensive relationships with key players on the Afghan political scene, including important warlords in northern and western Afghanistan. Iranian influence was critical for arming and managing these players during the U.S.-led coalition’s military operations. After the war, Iranian influence induced these players to support the political settlement enshrined at the Bonn Conference in December 2001, when the Afghan Interim Authority under Hamid Karzai was established.


On the nuclear issue, the administration refused to consider direct negotiations with Tehran for nearly four years after the revelations of Iran’s efforts to develop a uranium enrichment capability. In the spring of 2003, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sent, via Swiss diplomatic channels, a proposal for negotiations aimed at resolving all outstanding bilateral differences between Tehran and Washington, including the nuclear issue. The proposal was described as having been endorsed by all the major power centers in Iran, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The administration’s response was to complain to the Swiss Foreign Ministry that the Swiss ambassador in Tehran had exceeded his brief by passing such a paper. It is worth noting that the Iranian message came to Washington shortly after the conclusion of major combat operations in Iraq and well before the emergence of the insurgency there—in other words, the Iranian offer was extended at a time when U.S. standing in the region appeared to be at its height. It is also worth recalling that, when the Iranian offer was made, the Islamic Republic was not spinning centrifuges or enriching uranium and the reformist Mohammad Khatami was still president.


Whether supported by a regional security framework or not, the foregoing analysis lays out the essential features of a U.S.-Iranian grand bargain. If Washington does not begin to pursue such an arrangement vigorously and soon, the window for this kind of strategic understanding between the United States and the Islamic Republic is likely to close. Under these circumstances, Iran’s development of at least a nuclear weapons option in the next few years is highly likely.

Thus, if it does not pursue a grand bargain with Tehran, the United States almost certainly will have to take up the more daunting and less potentially satisfying challenges of coping with a nuclear-capable Iran. And the standing of the United States in the world’s most strategically critical region will continue its already disturbing decline.
* update: to clarify my 'virtually', EW left a comment downstairs:
"Thanks for the link--but can you explain what I was trying to do with the "op-ed" (that is, recreate from the longer paper the stuff that MIGHT be in there, particularly the stuff Leverett has said they refused to let him publish)? Thanks."
"Thanks for the link" - heh.

from EW's original post:
But 1000 words, out of a 30 page paper? That sounds like Fair Use to me. So, using the paper on which Leverett based his censored op-ed, I decided to try to reconstruct what it is the Administration is so worried about. Of course, this is not Leverett's op-ed. But it includes the things that the Administration is censoring. And probably includes a few more of the things the Administration would prefer not to have in the NYT op-ed pages. Again--this is not Leverett's op-ed. But these are his words, words that they surely don't want you to read.


emptywheel said...


Thanks for the link--but can you explain what I was trying to do with the "op-ed" (that is, recreate from the longer paper the stuff that MIGHT be in there, particularly the stuff Leverett has said they refused to let him publish)? Thanks.

(Boy it's nice to be blogging again.)

lukery said...


it's great to have you back emptywheel.

i get the sense that there's still a bit of work to do on your book and we might lose you again for a bit?

rimone said...

thank you for all your hard work, emptywheel.

Kathleen said...

EW: Thanxxx so much for all the nitty gritty parts that make up the grist of the real story.