Leveretts Discuss Going to Tehran on HuffPost Live

We appeared on HuffPost Live, Huffington Post’s video channel, today to talk about our new book, Going to Tehran.  The segment was hosted by Ahmed Shihab-Eldin (who helped to create Al Jazeera’s The Stream); two expatriate Iranian journalists/bloggers, Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi and Shirin Sadeghi, join in for a good debate.  Our special thanks to HuffPost Live producer Adam Pourahmadi.  For the full interview and panel discussion, click here or on the embedded video above.

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

 

35 Responses to “Leveretts Discuss Going to Tehran on HuffPost Live”

  1. Richard Steven Hack says:

    That was probably the best discussion I’ve seen the Leveretts do so far.

    Now if they could only get that kind of exposition going on a mainstream media network…

    Good luck with that.

    It was apparent that Shirin is still an Obama Kool-Aid drinker and that Eskandar was mostly interested in bringing down the existing Iran regime over its civil rights issues more than anything else. The problem is that these sorts of discussion tend to veer off from the conflict between the US and Iran into side issues such as Iran’s civil rights. alleged support for “terrorism” (never clearly established as even existing other than its support for indigenous resistance groups such as Hizballah), and other matters which are tangential and unrelated to the nuclear issue.

    What needs to be decided early on in any such discussion is whether the issue to be discussed is the Iranian nuclear issue or whether it is the “U.S, vs. Iran” in general or whether it is to be “why Iran is ‘bad'”.

    This is a problem which has cropped up here frequently as well. The discussion here veers off into complaints about Iran’s government or religious arguments.

    From the standpoint of US “legitimate national interests” (whatever those are, since they’re never defined either), it doesn’t matter whether Iran is “bad” from a civil rights standpoint or whether it supports other resistance movements, or whether Iranians like or don’t like Americans per se. Actually all that matters is in fact defining what ARE US “legitimate national interests”. As long as these “interests” exclude making profits from war and dominating other countries economically and militarily, presumably those interests could be negotiated and navigated with regard to Iran. As long as the US is only interested in war profiteering and world hegemony, pretty much everything else is irrelevant.

    This is the problem with virtually every discussion on Iran, including this one. The Leveretts basic premise is that US legitimate national interests can only be served by “going to Tehran”. But they don’t appear able to discuss or even acknowledge the notion that perhaps the US primary interests AREN’T “legitimate” at all.

    Which makes the entire discussion moot and the likelihood of even bringing up the notion of changing the situation a pipe dream. If you can’t even discuss it, you can’t do anything about it.

    Justin Raimondo made the remarkable observation with regard to the Hagel nomination that he didn’t like the “skepticism” being expressed by myself and others over whether the Hagel nomination would even matter in the long run. As if not being “skeptical” would in any way affect the outcome one way or the other. This sort of attitude is delusional at best.

    One can debate whether the US government is fundamentally a criminal enterprise and whether there are any “honest politicians” or whether the Congress is anything other than a group of criminals intent on defrauding the electorate for their profit and the profit of a “one percent” of rich corporations and individuals.

    But if one can’t even raise the question, then debate is impossible and change is guaranteed to be impossible.

    Aside from being “correct” – which is always important – I don’t see the point in advocating a position which fundamentally is not implementable and can not be implemented given the existing circumstances. Or is it because the alternative – identifying the underlying problem and attempting to deal with that – is even less capable of being dealt with under the circumstances?

  2. Iranian says:

    It is amazing how the so called “experts on Iran” who have almost no touch to reality still talk about Green Movement and Human Rights issues when it comes to Islamic republic of Iran and their judgments are clouded by their false assumptions and their predispositions towards Islamic Values and way of Governance. It is also interesting to note that while defending the truth and clarifying basic facts on the ground those experts will have to hate Flynt and Hillary and accuse them of defending an evil regime. America is riddled with human rights violations and illegal international policies and yet those experts never mention them. The truth is Flynt and Hillary are a rare breed who actually see things as they are without prejudice or hate but most of the “experts” have already made up their minds based on a pack of lies and assumptions! From The Islamic point of view one can not come to defend truth just by chance, the root, the food, the life and actions must have been clean along the way! A sick heart can never defend truth. Thank you guys and I hope you will have patience to deal with ignorance and hate.

  3. Irshad says:

    BiBiJon says:
    January 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm
    (from previous forum)

    I totally agree with what you have said about IB and ST at the Guardian. It came us no suprise then that the Guardian decided it will be hosting “Tehran Bureau”, after PBS decided they have had enough of them and their “journalism”. TB joining the Guardian, along with IB, ST, Julian Borger and S.Dehghan now makes the Guardian, the British equivialent of David Albrights ISIS, the jornalistic version! I hate to see them reporting the up coming presidential elections in Iran, or does the Guardian editors are aware of something Western spy agencies may have told them and this is just the prep works before the show starts?

    The one other person that should join that gang is Kim Sengupta of the Independent – they all will feel at home working with each other – acting as each others echo chamber for Western intervention in the Islamic world.

    @James C.- Morsi has already visited Tehran. He has recently invited Ahmednejad to Cairo for the upcoming OIC summit.

  4. James Canning says:

    Iranian,

    The simplest fact to bear in mind, regarding so-called “experts” in the US (and elsewhere), is that those who promote a line of thinking that is seen as beneficial to Israel, tend to receive benefits for promoting that line of thinking.

  5. Castellio says:

    I’d like to inform readers here that Soldiers, Spies, and Statesmen: Egypt’s Road to Revolt By Hazen Kandil is truly an accomplishment.

    I was suspect at the beginning, but frankly, there was no cause. He knows his stuff and dissects the various interests that have shaped Egyptian political evolution since the time of Nasser. Of course, you can’t get it all, and there are other perspectives; mais mon dieu, it’s by far the best of the current books, and will prove itself over time.

    I highly recommend it.

  6. kooshy says:

    With US continuing to print dollars which they call “quantum easing” which in effect are devaluing the dollar against major commodities ( Food, Energy), and now with Japan announcing devaluing her currency, for sure euro will need to fallow considering the euro zone’s current economic condition and the need to maintain her exports and the employment level.

    This for sure will bring about a currency war which will result increased economic pressure on lower income class throughout the word especially on Europeans and Americans who have a higher standard of living.

    Russia Says World Is Nearing Currency War as Europe Joins

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-16/russia-says-world-is-nearing-currency-war-as-europe-joins.html

  7. kooshy says:

    Richard Steven Hack says:
    January 16, 2013 at 12:45 am

    “What needs to be decided early on in any such discussion is whether the issue to be discussed is the Iranian nuclear issue or whether it is the “U.S, vs. Iran” in general or whether it is to be “why Iran is ‘bad’”.

    This is a problem which has cropped up here frequently as well. The discussion here veers off into complaints about Iran’s government or religious arguments.”

    Rich

    As it has been mentioned for many years and many times, Iran’s nuclear issue is just a pretext for the ultimate goal of a regime change (a hopeful soft regime change if all possible). If like majority on this site you subscribe to this analysis, than one will wonder why should all other issues related to Iran and US and Europe like human rights, international law, economy, military capabilities, regional developments, media/propaganda war, elections, appointments, culture, religion, History, etc. not to be discussed on this site or anywhere else when the real issue and nucleus of the policy is a war against Iran’s independence.

    In this kind of war when both sides reinvent a new front every day is necessary to discuss and analyze in full and detailed context all related issues with regard to the two opposing sides. I kind of understand that the American publics who have been made and brought up to believe that they are the only light that shines from the top the hill get disgusted and try to change or refocus the discussion to one subject which is Iran’s nuclear issue and a possible final outcome. Like when the discussion is drawn to human rights it’s fair to talk about the Iranian election’s prisoners but they rather wouldn’t want to talk about Guantanamo since they claim the discussion is about Iran and not US, that’s wrong the real discussion is about Iran and US/ west with all their goods and bad. American public should have the courage to face and learn their worldly short comings on all matters which can bring about a change that they were promised but never came about.

  8. fyi says:

    kooshy says:

    January 16, 2013 at 5:43pm

    Mr. Hack does not credit the emotional impact of religious sentiment on US, EU, and Iranian decision-making.

    He is like Marxists for whom material interest always must – absolutely must – be considered the primary motivation of human and state actions.

    That a delusional religious formulation of 19-th century England has brought US into a religious confrontation with Islam is incomprehensible to him.

  9. Pirouz says:

    Irshad says:
    January 16, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Whatever, I’m just glad the so-called “Tehran Bureau” is no longer associated with our American PBS. Let the British have at it, I say.

  10. Richard Steven Hack says:

    Kooshy: “one will wonder why should all other issues related to Iran and US and Europe like human rights, international law, economy, military capabilities, regional developments, media/propaganda war, elections, appointments, culture, religion, History, etc. not to be discussed on this site or anywhere else when the real issue and nucleus of the policy is a war against Iran’s independence.”

    You just answered your own question.

    If the real issue is a war against Iran’s independence, then who cares about all the other issues internal to Iran? If you’re Iranian or an ex-pat Iranian, maybe you can care about those issues. To anyone else, they’re irrelevant. They have literally nothing to do with whether or not there’s going to be an Iran war.

    The Leveretts just got through explaining in multiple videos how the US elite doesn’t know anything about Iran – and couldn’t care less that they don’t. So the question for the Leveretts is: why? What’s the REAL motivation behind the US and Israel’s behavior?

    It’s not enough to claim that the US is “making a mistake” by pursuing the hegemonic course it’s pursuing. The question is WHY?

    The real question is, as always in life: Cui bono? Who profits? This is the question people like Chalmers Johnson, Noam Chomsky, and many others address and rightly so.

    The REAL discussion should be about the US (and its allies like Israel.) Iran is just another “target” like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, etc.

  11. James Canning says:

    R S Hack,

    Lebanon is a “target” of the US, in your view? Meaning?

  12. James Canning says:

    The Financial Times reports today that Obama’s comment, that Israel does not know what is in its own best interests, has provoked considerable debate in Israeli newspapers.

  13. fyi says:

    Richard Steven Hack says:

    January 17, 2013 at 10:17 am

    You speak of “real motivation” as though men are so self-aware as to be able to phatom that.

    What was the “real motivation” of an atheist to seek a Jewsih homeland in Palestine?

    For if he were an atheist what did it matter?

    Could not all these atheists have married Christians?

    Why insist on the ethnic continuity of a community that is defined, based on its own scriptures, in a deal with God?

    And what is the real motivation of US support for such an ethnos in Palestine – what has US gained over the last 60 years but becoming identified as an enemy of Islam.

    I suggest you revise your hyper-rationalism – itself a manifestation of a the anti-religious European Englightenment – and come back to the reality in which emotion rules the roost.

  14. kooshy says:

    “What needs to be decided early on in any such discussion is whether the issue to be discussed is the Iranian nuclear issue or whether it is the “U.S, vs. Iran” in general or whether it is to be “why Iran is ‘bad’”.

    Rich

    I think you need to remember the question you raised, which I replied to, basically my reply was is all of the three possibilities you raised above. My reply to your concern was that in a war everything goes including the kitchen sink, plus no hole is bared, the American side believes her hegemony (interest) is been effected and reduced by Iran’s revolution, the Iranian side believes they are in a 34 year war against US/West hegemony to subdue their hard fought independence, so they are not going to let it be isolated to only one issue like US wants regardless if Americans like it or not.

    In this kind of war American perception of Iran is as relevant as is the Iranian’s toward the US, in US cost benefit is measure by dollars but like what fyi said for the other side that might be measured by value of dignity how and for how long are you willing to fight some people for their dignity, if you can’t understand or unwilling to listen and learn what they will fight you for before you start a war.

  15. Richard Steven Hack says:

    Kooshy: The point is that the people who run the US couldn’t care less about any of that.

    The people who run the US are very clear about their goals and the methods they use to achieve those goals. They don’t give a rat’s ass about how Iranians see things, or how anyone opposed to pointless wars see things. They don’t have to – or at least they don’t believe they have to – because they have the power.

    It’s everyone else who hasn’t a clue.

    If you’re going to oppose someone, you have to know your enemy. I’m concerned that very few people here – including the Leveretts – really do. Everyone appears to have a view of the world that is almost entirely constructed out of whole cloth by the people who actually do run the world – and worse, that everyone appears to be happy with that false construction because, due to cognitive dissonance (which is simply fear), they can’t deal with the alternative, i.e. reality.

    Once again, I point out that the reason a war with Iran is virtually inevitable is because certain people with great influence in this country and elsewhere stand to profit greatly by it, just as they did with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to a lesser degree (if you count $50 billion by British Petroleum “lesser”) Libya.

    If no one can even discuss this angle, it doesn’t matter what else you want to discuss related to Iran. None of it is going to change the fact of the inevitability of the war, whatever the consequences turn out to be.

    As for Iranian dignity, first, I’ve always said that Iran will eventually win the war, in that the US will be forced to withdraw. That said, to paraphrase Stalin, how many divisions does “dignity” bring to the battlefield? The answer is: Enough to make the US withdraw – AFTER it has bombed Iran into the Stone Age to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars of profit to the military-industrial complex and the oil companies.

    So who, in the end, really won? Iran – with say, two or three million casualties and another ten-year reconstruction period ahead of it? Or the military-industrial complex and oil companies who will bank another trillion or three dollars?

  16. fyi says:

    ll:

    Getting to Yes With Iran

    http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138481/robert-jervis/getting-to-yes-with-iran?page=show

    I think that in the short to medium term (3 to 6 years) the most likely scenario is “…a form of containment that would maintain something like the status quo…”

    Until Iranians go on offensive and restructure their domestic and foreign economic conditions.

  17. ExposingNeoConWarmongeringStooges says:

    Richard Steven Hack says:
    January 17, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Funny how the person here who continually insults everyone else, accuses everyone else of being delusional, and “not having a clue” can never make an accurate prediction that actually comes true. How odd. Maybe because Hack is the only one here who “doesn’t have a clue” and can’t support his arguments with actual facts and evidence when they are challenged? At this point it is obvious that Hack is just doing what he accuses others of doing.

  18. kooshy says:

    Richard Steven Hack says:
    January 17, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    “ The point is that the people who run the US couldn’t care less about any of that.”

    Rich

    In the same way, with an slight possibility that you would understand the people who run Iran don’t give a shit on what US and US’s elite care about or think, evidenced to that is that some thirty years ago the founder of Iran’s revolution
    Grand ayatollah Imam Khomeini said it himself “America can’t do jack shit”.

    “If no one can even discuss this angle, it doesn’t matter what else you want to discuss related to Iran. None of it is going to change the fact of the inevitability of the war, whatever the consequences turn out to be.”

    Now as far as going back to the arcade to discuss the only subject you care about and want to discuss, which is the arcade shooting match, this has been discussed many times here and I am not going to restart that again, your predictions and the elites “wants” on this subject is as good as any. So far in this past thirty four years on making money on the Iranian situation, elites desire to make money on Iran has had the reverse effect by sanctioning themselves out of Iran’s growing market which is the 17th largest world economy with a population of 80 million mostly educated young who can afford to buy $700 iPhones. With that in mind during this time not only they didn’t make any money on Iranian growing market they have lost their ass geopolitically, economically and militarily in the region and around the globe, for this they are right to blame Ira, since this all started with revolution in Iran. If you don’t refuse to check a map and read and learn the history and the demography of the region surrounding Iran you and the elites can and could have understand why the US’s global position/ influence was bound to be shattered even with the fall of USSR.

    As you say “good luck with that”

  19. Fiorangela says:

    I have to disagree with our blog hosts; I don’t think a “lively debate” took place, I think Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi and Shirin Sadeghi were out of their depth, and that’s a shame. They only claims they offered were of the “did not/did too” variety, not the “broaden your thinking” category that Hillary called for.

    On the other hand, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin at least knew enough about the topic and the arguments to be able to follow his guests’ arguments.

    Perhaps as the Leveretts’ book and its core ideas gain traction in foreign policy circles and, importantly, as the Iranian expat community “broadens their thinking” and gains a bit of courage and, let’s face it, brass, better informed interlocutors will arise and more robust debates will ensue.

    Major blogs that discuss the Israel lobby and Israel/Palestine frequently argue that American Jews must be the ones to resolve issues such as the alleged power of the Israel lobby in the US, as well as the I/P conflict itself. Similarly, as Trita Parsi has argued, Iranian Americans are well advised to make the case for a better understanding of Iranian history, culture, and present situation, among the American public. Yes it’s true that Iran is demonized relentlessly in American media — including education systems, infotainment networks, and film. Why would Iranian Americans be content to allow that distorted version of their culture be the only version that is offered to Americans? Is there not enough talent or money in the Iranian expat community to counterbalance those distortions?

  20. James Canning says:

    Geoff Dyer, in the Financial Times today (‘Middle East distrracts from long-term aims’): ‘{I]t is still not clear whether Iran. . . is in a position to negotiate. . .

    ‘Any deal [with Iran] is likely to involve allowing Iran to enrich uranium to a low level, which will be unpopular among many Republicans and some in Israel.”

  21. James Canning says:

    R S Hack,

    I assume you are aware that Obama’s generals were reluctant to have the US intervene in Libya. And that Robert Gates strongly opposed the intervention.

  22. James Canning says:

    Fiorangela,

    Ahmed Shihab-Eldin said the US demdns that Iran end enrichment and Iran “ignores their demands”. In fact, Iran offered to stop enriching to 20 percent. As everyone who follows this site knows.

  23. James Canning says:

    Mario Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida hoping to win the White House in 2016, has appointed a neocon warmonger to give himself foreign policy advice for the Middle East. Jamie Fly. Fly would like to see the US attack Iran in order to overthrow the government.

  24. fyi says:

    Fiorangela says:

    January 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    You asked: “Why would Iranian Americans be content to allow that distorted version of their culture be the only version that is offered to Americans?”

    Because it is futile on many levels.

    Very many Iranians living in America are poorly informed about Iran – the statement that “Iran is the country of Imam Hussein.” is not just incomprehensible to them, it is also an insult to their (Fanatsy) world view.

    On the American side, the fly-over USA hates Islam, Arabs and in particular Iran. Iranian leaders since 1979 have taken a moral mirror to the members of these social strata in US – equating US – the Godly Country – with the Great Satan. That gets the fly-over America’s blood boiling every time.

    Furthermore, US and iran religiously are clashing on the disposition of Palestine. the religious project of Americans in Palestine is anathema to “jus gentium Islamicum” that implicitly underpins the position of Iran and other Muslim states.

    Very many of the Iranians in America, as well as Americans, consider Iran or US or India or Denmark to be part of the same “Jus gentium universum”. They fail to understand that no such thing exists and that, further, United States and her allies have been unable to create such a Jus gentium universum.

    In practice this means that Iran and US are operating under 2 different “jus gentium” conceptions: a pesudo-European one by US and her allies (now emptied of its historical foundation in Europe) and an Islamicum one that is yet to be realized.

    A cynical statesman would recognize all of these and work around them; a fool would try to hustle an alien people with whom he has nothing in common except the “State of Fall”.

  25. ToivoS says:

    Fiorangela I have to agree with you that the two Iranian expats were out of their depth. But what was more striking was how irrelevant were their concerns in the face of the Leverett’s arguments. Huff Po is an important outlet and the way this debate came across was very positive. Is the US going to support its national interests or will we pay a deep price backing the losing side from Iran’s revolution?

    There was something else the Leverett’s could have added to the Chinese analogy. Namely, once the US-China cold war ended it also led to the beginnings of reconciliation between the Nationalists and Communists. The Hong Kong capitalists have become thoroughly incorporated into the “communist” state and Taiwan is slowly becoming economically integrated into the rest of China. If real peace should break out between Iran and the US, a similar reconciliation should be possible.

    I know a fair number of very successful Iranian ex pats here in Northern California and they are deeply critical of US FP and advocate for peaceful relations. These are people who would likely be important investors in a future Iran.

  26. Richard Steven Hack says:

    Kooshy: While the West’s ruling elites would indeed like to have a chunk of Iran’s economy under their control – and that certainly is one motivation – the reality is they get their money from the sucker US and EU taxpayer, not directly from Iran. So it doesn’t matter much to them if Iran has an “independent economy” or not – especially when they have the firepower to reduce much of that economy to rubble.

    And while Iranians may not care about the US elites think, given that the US has the firepower to MAKE them care to the tune of 2 or 3 million casualties in the coming war, I’d say they’d better start caring.

    Finally, I’ve never argued that the ruling elites aren’t going to go down eventually – taking the rest of us with them. That isn’t going to help the dead in Iran and elsewhere in the short term.

  27. kooshy says:

    Richard Steven Hack says:
    January 18, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    “And while Iranians may not care about the US elites think, given that the US has the firepower to MAKE them care to the tune of 2 or 3 million casualties in the coming war, I’d say they’d better start caring.”

    Well, speaking of war casualties, it all seems that the length of the recent wars started by Americans are set by the number of casualties American can afford and are willing to take, like in Vietnam they only could afford to lose some 50k before they had enough and had to kiss Mao’s ass to be permitted to leave from the embassy’s roof top you are old enough to remember that. In this recent war with Iraq they only took around 5000 casualties before they had enough to put their tail between their legs and leave, who knows maybe in a war with Iran they only can afford 500 before they call it quits and declare we won, as for the Iranian side, like what Mao told Kissinger they may afford losing 50K how many casualties you think the American are willing to take, Iran lost 500k in war with Iraq may be in war with US to throw Americans out of Middle East they be willing to take more. Who knows?

    Right now it’s not the time to count the dead it’s rather time to make Americans think and learn their worldly short coming of considering themselves exceptional.

  28. Fiorangela says:

    Richard Steven Hack says: January 18, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    “Kooshy: While the West’s ruling elites would indeed like to have a chunk of Iran’s economy under their control – and that certainly is one motivation – the reality is they get their money from the sucker US and EU taxpayer, not directly from Iran. So it doesn’t matter much to them if Iran has an “independent economy” or not – especially when they have the firepower to reduce much of that economy to rubble.”

    = = =
    Chas Freeman, John Duke Anthony & others spoke at the Middle East Policy Center a few days ago. Anthony’s topic was the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); he is no fan of Iran, which was a major topic of the forum, along with resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Responding to a question regarding the latter, Anthony said this:

    QUOTE: “But with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict that Marwan is talking about, in terms of credibility and legitimacy of policy, or position, or attitude, or action, stack that against the following, that since 1979 to January 16th, 2013, the United States taxpayers have provided Israel with $140 every second, $6,000 every minute, $300,000 every hour and $8.5 million a day. When you talk about rule of law and accountability and responsibility, when you utter the words of peace, we also know as children that crime is not supposed to pay. And here’s an instance where it not only pays, but it pays quite handsomely. There’s no other country on the planet that receives this kind of largess, this material benefit, despite defying its protector, despite defying its primary source of finance and diplomatic intervention, and despite all the other things that people say positively about support for democracy and freedom.” END QUOTE

    = = =
    $140 a minute for 34 years and counting, with no accountability; “that certainly is one motivation” for keeping the Middle East pot roiling. Israel at peace would have no lever to extract “money from the sucker US and EU taxpayer”.

  29. ExposingNeoConWarmongeringStooges says:

    “given that the US has the firepower to MAKE them care to the tune of 2 or 3 million casualties in the coming war, I’d say they’d better start caring.”

    No it does not as I and others have repeatedly proved. On the other hand, Iran has the ability to plunge the world economy into a catastrophic depression in just 3 months in the event of any aggression against it.

  30. Kathleen says:

    Hey the Daily Beast, Huff Po Live, maybe just maybe one of the MSNBC host will grow a spine and have the two of you on. Been a long time since Diane Rehm or NPR has had you folks on. Too afraid of facts about Iran

  31. James Canning says:

    kooshy,

    I very much doubt Obama would be foolish enough to attempt to occupy Iran, in the sad event of a military confrontation.

  32. James Canning says:

    I think too little attention is given to Ali Akbar Salehi’s comments (made in New York), that Iran will voluntarily limit enrichment to 5% but the west must agree to sell whatever enriched uranium is needed above that level. Meaning, of course, Iran can buy TRR fuel.