Appearing on RT’s CrossTalk, click on the video above or see here and (for YouTube) here, Hillary explored the anti-Muslim bias and even outright racism driving some aspects of the opposition to a prospective Iran nuclear deal here in the United States. (Her foil on this point was Fred Fleitz, former CIA analyst who established his neoconservative foreign policy credentials as chief of staff to John Bolton and Bob Joseph during their tenures as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.) Evaluating domestic political dynamics in Tehran and Washington vis-à-vis the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran, Hillary says,
“I am not so concerned about the so-called ‘hardliners’ in Iran who may derail this deal. I think we’re dealing with an Iranian government that has been very clear-eyed about what it wants to get out of these negotiations and has focused on it very seriously. And they have the support of the Supreme Leader and others…
But I am very concerned on the American side here…My colleague [Fred Fleitz] used this language that the Obama Administration needed ‘adult supervision.’ You see that reflected in the [Republican senators’] letter, you see it in the commentary—some very insulting terms about President Obama himself, as if he’s not an adult, he’s a child. The letter supposedly warns the Iranians that any deal would just be a deal between Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei, as if the Iranians really had to worry about that. That line is directed toward the American people, to sow questions in a pernicious narrative here that maybe Obama is really sympathetic with ‘the ayatollahs,’ he’s really sympathetic with Islamists. And maybe he’s not really, exactly ‘American.’ We heard former [New York City] Mayor Giuliani make such comments about Obama, too, that maybe Obama doesn’t really love America. There’s always been an undercurrent here, since Obama started campaigning, and I think it’s rearing its ugly head again, now that the Republicans control both the House and the Senate.”
When Hillary asked Fleitz directly why he used language that Obama needs ‘adult supervision,’ he had no response. Elaborating on her critique, Hillary explains,
“There are two very pernicious narratives that have taken hold in Washington.
One…is what Prime Minister Netanyahu gave voice to when he spoke before Congress, which is that essentially all Islamists are brutal, bloody terrorists—that the Islamic Republic is the same thing as the Islamic State, equating all Islamists, regardless of what they’re doing, as bloody, brutal terrorists—and that we have no choice but to eliminate and then impose puppet regimes on them, so they’ll behave. That’s a very dangerous narrative for the United States, because it keeps our head in the sand, in defiance of reality that there are more than a billion Muslims in this world and we’re somehow going to have to come to terms with them—especially in the Middle East, where they’re seeking real foreign policy independence.
The other pernicious narrative that’s linked to this is an attempt to tie President Obama to that, personally.”
In a telling display of how anti-Muslim bias warps American discourse about Iran, Fleitz reacted to the moderator, Peter Lavelle, pointing out that Iran has a sovereign right—acknowledged in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—to enrich uranium with an emblematic declaration: “It shouldn’t have that right.” In response, Hillary notes,
“It’s really interesting, because this point that Iran ‘shouldn’t have that right’ really gets to the heart of this. There’s a group here in Washington who thinks that they should be able to pick and choose which countries can have which rights. And the nuclear issue is critically important there. It’s fine for them that Israel has nuclear weapons; it’s fine for them that India as an American friend has nuclear weapons…The problem that opponents have is they don’t like the Islamic Republic. And so people like Sen. Cotton and his supporters here, they’re fine with a deal with Iran—but not this Iran, not the Islamic Republic of Iran. They want it to be with a puppet regime in Iran that takes dictated terms from Washington. That’s just not going to happen, no matter how much people want it. That defies reality.”
Extending her analysis, Hillary underscores that “the real concern” of a prospective nuclear deal’s opponents is “the changing balance of power in the Middle East and, whether they like it or not, the changing balance of power around the world. The concern is not whether it’s 2, 200 or 2,000 centrifuges. The concern is the rise of Iran and what that means in the Middle East. The concern is the rise of Russia, the rise of China, and what that means for international politics. I think that, for all of its flaws, the Obama administration is trying to navigate those reality-based changes in the balance of power, in the Middle East and around the world. And this deal will focus the United States on those necessary correctives in our own foreign policy—to get us off the track of trying to impose military dominance all over the Middle East and around the world. That’s the importance of this agreement. But President Obama hasn’t actually explained that to the American people, and therefore he opens the window for all of these various kinds of insulting tactics against his policies.”
Interestingly, as negotiators from the P5+1 and Iran appear to be getting close to agreement on key substantive aspects of a prospective nuclear deal, implementation—mainly on the U.S. side, is emerging as an ever more salient challenge. In this regard, Hillary points out that Iran has been careful not to put “all their eggs in the American basket. They have working constructive partnerships with Russia, China, European countries. And I think they will focus on the UN and the UN Security Council to give them the international security guarantees required since the United States may not be able to live up to its word,” in terms of actually implementing a deal.
The endgame for this process promises to be very interesting, indeed.
—Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett