The Leveretts on How Obama Should Deal With Iran—On The Dish


We rounded out our appearances on The Dish’s “Ask Anything” video series by addressing the question, “What would be the ideal position for Obama to take on Iran and why hasn’t he taken it?”  In a manner appropriate for the month in which Richard Nixon’s 100th birthday fell (America’s 37th President was born on January 9, 1913), we respond by drawing lessons from Nixon and Kissinger’s opening to the People’s Republic of China in the early 1970s.  Please click here or on the embedded video above to see “Ask the Leveretts Anything:  How should Obama deal with Iran?”

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett



22 Responses to “The Leveretts on How Obama Should Deal With Iran—On The Dish”

  1. James Canning says:

    I recommend comments by James Blitz in the Financial Times online today: “Will the west regret toppling Gaddafi?” ( – – no paywall).

  2. James Canning says:

    Richard Nixon had the good sense to take William F. Buckley with him, to China (in 1972).

    I think Obama simply lacked the intestinal fortitude to take on powerful Democrats who want the US to be hostile toward Iran so long as Iran is not friendly toward Israel.

  3. James Canning says:

    I recommend Max Blumental’s “AIPACs shadow war against Chuck Hagel” at alternet site today.

    Aipac pretends not to be involved in efforts to block Hagel from Defence ministry.

  4. Fiorangela says:

    I suspect few western commentator on Iran — and on other Islamic states in the Middle East and elsewhere fail to appreciate what Hillary Leverett emphasizes — how Islam is an authentic part of culture in Muslim states.

    Rushir Sharma’s confused discussions of the place of Islam in Turkey and in Iran reflect this failure of a fact-based and respectful analysis of the way that Islam is integral to i.e. Iranian, and perhaps Egyptian, culture, not just a religious overlay.

  5. Fiorangela says:

    David Andelman and Christopher Shays are from Mars, Ali Akbar Salehi is from Venus.

    (h/t fyi)

    Andelman/Shays: “With all due respect, that’s the glass half -full part. But there is a glass half-empty part of the model. Because of the confrontation with the West, the economy is in such a fragile condition now. Look at the rial. Just this morning, it was at about 45,000 to the dollar. Your colleague was telling us that last time he was home three years ago, it was 1,000 to the dollar; this is very frightening. How do you deal with this?”

    Salehi: “I wish we didn’t have this situation of course. But, everything you see, every commodity has a price. The most valuable commodity that we have—and we cherish it and hold it very strongly—is independence. And this is the price we have been paying for the past 33 years. It is the price we are paying as a nation, which has stood up on its feet, saying, “Look, I decide for myself. I am no more a lackey of any superpower.” But there is a price that has to be paid. It’s like a slave who frees himself without having the master freeing him, and the master is running after him. But the slave is saying, “I am a free man, and I am ready to give up everything to hold on to my independence.”

    This is one kind of a price we are paying, but we look at it from a more realistic point of view. In Iran, on IMF data, the per capita income of an Iranian based on purchasing power parity, is $13,500 dollars. Our population is about 75 million. That means the GDP of the country is about a trillion dollars, based on purchasing power parity. And, our income from oil last year was about $80 billion, plus some other earnings, so assume $100 billion. So yes, [the embargo] will have an effect, 10 percent, but it will not, it cannot paralyze our economy. Because our economy, again thanks to the sanctions, grew as an indigenous economy, because it was not given the chance to engage with the international community. We do not have an export-oriented economy, rather we have an indigenous-oriented economy, so the market is big enough. Yes, these ripples exist, but they cannot really paralyze the economy. . . . [Salehi provided yet more particulars on how Iran is prospering WHILE protecting its independence, i.e. withstanding sanctions].

    Which provoked this rejoinder from Andelman/Shays:

    “One final question. I’m very concerned about the people of Iran. They’re having difficulties. The rial has lost 60 percent of its value, and it’s projected to lose as much as 40 percent more by next spring, if not earlier. With that kind of a strain, do you feel the burden on your people and how will that affect your foreign policy?”

    = = =

    One wonders if Andelman/Shays were listening at all to Dr. Salehi’s explanation that some things are more important than a falling rial, and if they listened to their contradictory selves as they express their “concern” for the people of Iran, while simultaneously (presumably) supporting actions intended to further weaken the rial that they seem to believe is the penultimate measure of a culture’s value set.

  6. kooshy says:

    Fiorangela says:
    January 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    “One wonders if Andelman/Shays were listening at all to Dr. Salehi’s explanation that some things are more important than a falling rial, and if they listened to their contradictory selves as they express their “concern” for the people of Iran,”

    This a important cultural difference between the Iranian culture and Western culture specially Americans (everything has a monetary value and is valued in dollars), in US everything has a dollar sign attached to it even one’s honor and name. back in 1972 when I was a freshman in collage my mother visited me for the first time, I remember one of the first thing she observed and questioned me was “how come here everywhere and on everything there is $ sign” she just had seen the billboards as well as highway littering fine sign on way home when she asked me the question.

  7. James Canning says:

    Gideon Rachamn has an excellent piece in the Financial Times Jan. 15th: “Netanyahu: tactical genius, strategic idiot”.

  8. fyi says:

    Fiorangela says:

    January 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    For Arabs, it is not just an “authentic part of the culture”, it is “The Culture”; outside of Islam nothing exists – no civilization, no culture, no urbanity and indeed no meaning.

  9. James Canning says:

    Ali Akbar Salehi, quoted in the Israel Times Jan. 10th: “Syria needs dialogue and negotiations between the government and the opposition.” Very true.

  10. Dan Cooper says:

    Off Topic

    A tribute to Omar Khayyam at Fez Sacred Music Festival *** Must Watch —

    From ARTE TV. This link will expires in few days

    Directed by Tony Gatlif , become a master in the art of capturing the emotion in his films gypsy music, oriental or Sufi work of the great poet Omar Khayyam symbolizes the enchantment of the world, the theme of the 2012 edition of Sacred Music Festival in Fez.

  11. Dan Cooper says:

    Mark Bruzonsky is a former senior official of the Jewish Agency of the U.S.

    He is interviewed by the gorgeous Abby Martin.

    US is Hostage to Israel?

  12. humanist says:

    Bigger than life Aaron Swartz committed suicide:

    Watch one of his important speeches to realize why all of what he was saying were way more than thought provoking…or way more than simple echoes from the astutest possible rational platforms……:

  13. masoud says:

    This was an incredibly well done series of clips. Kudos.

    Nice follow question to end everything off on.

  14. Bussed-in Basiji says:

    Obama: Brilliant tactician, lousy strategist.

  15. James Canning says:

    Writing in the Financial Times today, Gideon Rachman argues that Bibi Netanyahu is a “strategic idiot” for encouraging further growth of illegal colonies of settlers in the West Bank. There appears reason to believe Netnayhu is trying to force Obama to go to war with Iran, to provice cover for Israeli “annexation” of large portions of the West Bank.

  16. James Canning says:

    Bussed-In Basiji,

    Obama obviously was a lousy strategist, in his effort to stop the growth of the illegal colonies of Jews in the West Bank.

    Obama a good tactician, perhaps, in the sanctions context.

  17. James Canning says:

    Scott McConnell, on how the frantic neocon effort to smear Hagel (and block his going to Defence) may backfire:

  18. James Canning says:


    You may have noticed that Ali Akbar Salehi, in that interview the other day, noted that Iran applied to the IAEA to buy replacement 20% nuclear fuel for the TRR. And the application was blocked.

    How interesting that the interviewers did not underline this gross stupidity on the part of the Obama administration.

  19. Unknown Unknowns says:

    Thanks for the link to Tony Gatlif, who I’ve been a fan of ever since his Lacho Drom back in the 80’s. It is not, as far as I know, yet available on DVD, but a torrent of a VHS rip is available and probably still active. Highly recommended.

  20. BiBiJon says:

    Ian Black, bipolar disorder, and bigotry palmed off as mid east analysis

    The Guardian has spent some thirty three years propagandizing against what they used to call ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, and these days call, ‘Islamism.’ They have questioned the viability of such a system year after year while that very system was consistently racking up, not just survival, but advancements, socially, scientifically, industrially, educationally, technologically, financially, etc. etc.

    The latest siege warfare is hoped to manufacture the societal dysfunction that Ian Black and Simon Tisdal have been predicting for three long decades. Iran is due to send monkeys into space next month. I hope they’ll consider naming the monkeys, Ian, and Simon.

    Here is a doosy, a spectacular non sequitur by Ian Black, just so he (and his readers) can meander down the the same blind alley of willful misapprehension for another three decades.


    In general, Tehran has misrepresented the uprisings as an “Islamic awakening” — a partial and self-serving view even though in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere Islamist parties have played significant roles.


  21. James Canning says:


    Do you think Morsi will go to Tehran?

    Hasn’t Egypt obtained billions of dollars in financial support from Qatar this past year?

  22. James Canning says:


    Is it not fair to say the insurgency in Syria partly is a result of too much consumption of the economic ‘pie’ of that country, by the group in control?