September 1st, 2011
02:13 PM ET

Iran and Syria: America's Middle East pundits get it wrong (again)

Editor's Note: Flynt Leverett teaches international affairs at Penn State and is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation.  Hillary Mann Leverett teaches at American University and is CEO of Strategic Energy and Global Analysis (STRATEGA), a political risk consultancy. They blog at The Race for Iran.

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, The Race for Iran

For over 30 years, America’s Iran “experts” and Middle East pundits have characterized virtually every significant regional and internal Iranian development as a sure-to-be-fatal blow to the Islamic Republic. Their predictions have always been wrong.  Now, unrest in Syria has brought out the usual suspects to forecast, once again, gloom and doom for Iran’s current political order.

Just within the last couple of days, the proposition that the Assad government’s implosion is going to deal a major blow to the Islamic Republic’s regional position and, perhaps, even its internal stability, has been advanced by Vali Nasr, see here, Karim Sadjadpour, see here, and Bilal Saab, see here.  Michael O’Hanlon (who extolled the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq as a model campaign that would be studied in military staff colleges for years to come) and Elliot Abrams have even laid out a set of military options for the United States and its allies to consider applying in Syria to hasten such an outcome, see here and here.  This proposition has also driven Western media outlets’ wholesale misreading of the Eid al-Fitr sermon yesterday by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, which was inaccurately characterized as “reflecting the Iranian leadership’s deep unease with the uprisings that have swept the region”; see here and here.

Given their track record of failed predictions and all that is at stake, for the United States and the people of the region, these individuals’ current policy recommendations ought to elicit very tough and skeptical scrutiny.  Two points stand out as especially important.

First of all, it is far from clear that the Assad government is actually imploding.  It is obvious that a portion of Syria’s population is aggrieved and disaffected, but it is not evident at all that this portion represents a majority.  President Bashar al-Assad still retains the backing of key segments of Syrian society.  Moreover, no one has identified a plausible scenario by which the “opposition”, however defined, can actually seize power.

Read: Challenging conventional wisdom on al Qaeda: Is it stronger today thn when it first declared war against America, and if so, why?

We have been through this sort of situation before.  In 2005, in the wake of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri’s assassination, most Western commentators confidently opined that President Assad was finished.  Instead, he not only survived, but came through the episode with greater authority domestically and having reasserted Syria’s unavoidably central role in Middle Eastern politics and diplomacy.  In light of this history, assumptions that Assad cannot survive are, to say the least, premature.  This is yet another example of something so utterly characteristic of the way in which Western analysts approach Middle Eastern issues, especially those touching on the Islamic Republic and its interests—analysis by wishful thinking.         

Second, while most Iranian policymakers and foreign policy elites would almost certainly prefer to see Assad remain in office, it is wrong to assume that Tehran has no options or is even a net “loser” if the current Syrian government is replaced.  A post-Assad government, if it is even minimally representative of its people, is going to pursue an independent foreign policy.  It will not be enamored of the prospect of strategic cooperation with the United States, and may be less inclined than the Assad regime (under both Bashar and his father, the late Hafiz al-Assad) to keep Syria’s southern border with Israel “stable”.  Tehran can work with that.

Moreover, a minimally representative post-Assad government would probably entail a significant role for the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which has had extensive interaction with Islamist supporters of participatory politics in Turkey and other places in the Muslim world.  Syria’s Muslim Brothers take issue with the Assad government’s internal policies, not its foreign policies, especially toward Israel and the United States.  Just as the ikhwan in post-Mubarak Egypt has made clear its interest in seeing closer Egyptian-Iranian ties, the Syrian Brothers are likely to take a similar approach in a post-Assad environment.

Read: Enrichment still the key to progress in nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

There are two scenarios for a post-Assad Syria which would be genuinely bad for Iranian interests.  One would be the installation of an intensely salafi, Taliban-like regime with extensive Saudi support.  But such a government would not be at all reflective of Syrian society, or even most of its Sunni community.  For that reason alone, this scenario seems unlikely absent extraordinary levels of external support for that part of the Syrian opposition which—contrary to Westerners’ derisive dismissal of official Syrian claims—consists of violent salafi extremists, see here.

The other negative-for-Iran scenario would be the installation of U.S.-supported expatriates as Syria’s new government.  This, too, would be grossly unrepresentative of Syria’s population.  It also would almost certainly require a U.S.-led invasion of the country to effect—something that those opposition voices in Syria which have spoken to the subject have uniformly said they do not want.  Moreover, the U.S. experience in Iraq raises doubts as to whether even an invasion in force, followed by prolonged, multi-year occupation, can ultimately succeed in installing a puppet regime in today’s Middle East.  None of the Iraqi expatriates that the United States backed so handsomely—e.g., Ahmad Chalabi and Iyad Allawi—has been able to retain, by winning elections, the power initially handed to them by Paul Bremer and the U.S. military.  There is no reason to think it would be easier for America and its European and regional partners to achieve this in Syria.

Read: Is Saudi strategy "counter-revolutionary"?

One should also question the facile assumption of many American Iran “experts” that Tehran’s regional influence would be fatally damaged by the Assad government’s replacement.  Part of that assumption reflects a superficial assessment that Iran is desperately dependent on Syria to supply Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Did those who make this assumption notice that one of the first significant policy decisions by post-Mubarak Egypt was to open the Suez Canal to Iranian military vessels?   Moreover, did they notice that Hezbollah today effectively controls all of the main air and sea transit points into Lebanon?

It has become part of Western conventional wisdom that the Islamic Republic was all in favor of the Arab awakening until it got to Syria.  While Ayatollah Khamenei and other Iranian officials have been quite explicit in explaining why, in their view, Syria is different from Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, and even Libya, this does not mean that they do not still believe the Arab awakening continues to be, on balance, an enormous boon to the Islamic Republic’s strategic position.  Just yesterday, Khamenei described “the events taking place in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and certain other countries” as “decisive and destiny making for the Muslim nations.”

Khamenei warned against letting “the imperialist and hegemonic powers and Zionism, including the U.S. tyrannical and despotic regime” use “the ongoing conditions in their own favor.”  But, with an independent Egypt likely to develop closer ties to Iran, post-Saddam Iraq increasingly committed to strategic cooperation with Tehran, and Saudi Arabia pursuing an ever more overtly “counter-revolutionary” course, the region is not looking so bad from an Iranian vantage.  More likely than not, President Assad is going to stay around for a while in Damascus; even if he were to go, Iran will be able to deal with the kind of government most likely to follow him.

The United States needs to give up quixotic illusions of “containing” Iran or making the Islamic Republic disappear.  Washington needs, instead, to recognize the Islamic Republic’s importance in the regional balance and come to terms with it.


soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. Linda

    The Leveretts are notorious apologists for the Iranian and Syrian regimes...they have never met a dictator they don't like! They don't know anything about the Middle East, neither speaks Arabic or Persian, the only thing they can do is attack people.

    September 1, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Reply
    • hass

      They know more than you do – Flynt served as the senior director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council. Prior to serving on the NSC, he was a counterterrorism expert on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, and before that he served as a CIA senior analyst for eight years.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Reply
      • Linda

        Hass, it's funny how you spend your days on the internet defending the iranian regime and attacking the US govt yet you defend the leveretts by saying they worked for the US government! What an olagh you are! lol!

        September 1, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
      • hass

        Linda, the only people "defending the regime" are the ones who continue to push a policy that hasn't actually delivered a constructive result in over 30 years. YOU are the best defender of the regime.

        September 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        The authors should remind us that the Iranian regime is unpredictable because it's made up of a bunch of educated and astute people.

        September 1, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        They have their own Machiavellian culture and balance on a thin rope. Let's hope that the Iranian Islamic Republic one day will evolve into a democratic republic.

        September 1, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
      • Clint

        Let's hope the US and EU will develop also///

        September 1, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
      • Juergista

        And how are the Department of State and U.S. doing in terms to Iran policy during the last decades. Iran is behind the most killing of US citizens in Iraq and Obama sends secret letters to Khamenei, whose reign still stone people to death. And remember he has still an open hand extended to the Iranian regime despite the repeated fists from the mullahs.

        Nevertheless, Iran´s strength is best measured by its behavior against its own people, ultimately it is them who will decide on their country's future and who will run it.

        To the authors, shame upon those who seek and promote appeasement with the middle eave and barbaric regime in Iran by distorting fact and reality.

        September 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
      • Excellent Piece

        Great job. The truth is that the Islamic Republic and Ayatollah Khamenei are highly popular among Iranians who actually live inside the country. People should stop dreaming and come to terms with reality, especially at a time when things are getting very dangerous for the US in the Middle East and North Africa. We are being foolishly optimistic about the future of Libya among other places.

        September 2, 2011 at 12:56 am |
      • pouya

        Linda fails to answer Hass and engages in personal attacks. Very revealing.

        September 2, 2011 at 3:22 am |
      • Balanced Assessment

        The Islamic Republic is here to stay, people need to get a grip. The Leveretts defend their positions based on reality and US interests deriving hence. They are patriots in their own right for trying to wake America to her senses and best interests.

        September 2, 2011 at 7:12 am |
    • ROBERT

      Looks like Linda Knows is just knocking the authors, Or if she knows more about Middle East; than she should state her opinion about the subject not the authors. Linda do You speak Persian or Arabic?

      September 1, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Reply
      • Clint

        Linda,
        what substantive issue do you raise with the piece instead of aimless loose-minded hatred of Leveretts?

        Do you think Iran has a nuclear weapons program?

        September 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
      • Shahin

        Apparantly she does speak Persian, since she just called Hass an olagh.

        September 2, 2011 at 3:41 am |
    • pouya

      Linda

      Tell that to your love of the Saudi's. The silence on the Saudi's by the Neocons, the Media and our beloved President is deafening.

      September 2, 2011 at 3:20 am | Reply
    • freshteh

      kinda, I think Leveretts are among those few people in US who know exactly what they are talking about. As a person living in Iran and listening to the Ayatollah's speech I can say what they got and understood from his speech was quite right. Indeed People like Kareem Sajadpour or Vali Nasr( whose respective father used to serve the Iranian Shah -before 1979 revolution) are totally wrong. I don't assume Vali Nasr has seen iran all these years being in exile but Leveretts definitely have seen and touched Iran.

      September 5, 2011 at 8:32 am | Reply
  2. hass

    Our experts and media have been promising the fall of the Iranian regime for 30 years for a very simple reason: because to think otherwise would be an argument in favor of engaging Iran, and the pro-Israel lobby which runs US foreign policy in the Mideast, does not want to see Iran and the US start to get along. So, it doesn't matter if the pundits are right or wrong, and it doesn't matter if the US is losing out by insisting on this policy, as long as Israel is happy.

    September 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Reply
    • ROBERT

      I second that motion.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Reply
    • Clint

      hass is right and btw, there is NO IRANIAN nuclear weapons program:

      http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MH16Ak03.html

      September 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Reply
    • Kam

      right on the nail!

      September 1, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Reply
  3. Kevin

    Sunni's make up 60% of Syria's population while they are ruled over by a regime that represents a minority that comprises only 15% of the population and these geniuses can't see a plausible way for the opposition to oust Assad? That is pretty incredible. The Leverett's are like the mullahs own Tokyo Rose. I guess they got their check from Iran this week. Did they really just try to convince people that losing Syria wouldn't hinder Iran's weapons shipments to Hezbollah? Yeah the Syrian opposition is just dying to work with Iran and Hezbollah thats why they burn their flags in the street. Come on what a joke and why is CNN giving these apologists a platform for their propaganda?

    September 1, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Reply
    • hass

      Umm...the primary funder for Hamas is Saudi Arabia. And the Leverett's argument is that even if Assad falls any Syrian regime that replaces it - as long as it is an independent one - would pursue a similar, independent foreign policy. In fact it is reported that the Israelis don't necessarily want Assad to leave either

      September 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Reply
      • Kevin

        Oh I'm counting on Syria having an independent foreign policy. Thats why they will despise Iran who is propping up the very man they are working so hard to remove. Iran still uses our support for the Shah to justify their insane anti-Americanism more than thirty years after the fact. So you're just suggesting Syrians would forget Iran's staunch support for Assad in the name of an independent foreign policy? Doesn't make any sense. I don't care what Iran claims in public either. They are fully supporting Assad with every means at their disposal.

        September 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
      • Clint

        And AIPAC has invented an Iranian nuclear weapons program to create anti-Iranian sentiment in the US. So we're even?

        September 1, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Clint

      Why Kevin is wrong:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/video/2011/aug/31/noam-chomsky-terrorism-video

      September 1, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Reply
      • Kevin

        I trust Baghdad Bob more than I do Noam Chomsky. Chomsky is more anti-American than the mullahs.

        September 1, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
      • Clint

        I trust Chomsky more than you. Your necon fan club brought us the Cheney train wreck and Bush financial crisis.

        BTW, there is no Iranian nuclear weapons program:

        http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MH16Ak03.html

        Why should I trust you?

        September 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
      • Kevin

        Actually I'm not a "necon" or a supporter of Bush or Cheney. God knows that anyone who doesn't listen to marxist propaganda must be a "necon". Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapons program? Maybe you should tell the mullahs so they can stop trying to hide their nuclear facilities and cooperate fully with the IAEA which they are yet to do.

        September 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  4. Jason

    It is regrettable that rather than engaging in discussion on the merits (or lack there) of the article, certain quarters prefer name calling and accusations.

    To the dismay of the conventional Iran experts, the authors have pointed out that these experts have been, by and large, wrong and wrong again on many fronts – from motivations of the Iranian government, to its goals, popularity, stability, and so on.

    For the rational thinking mind, and from an American policy viewpoint, the question of value to ponder is: How do we engage and influence the Iranian government and the future of a potentially key nation. It seems that promoting "common ground" ideas and engaging in "dialog" is more productive than name calling and denial.

    September 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Reply
    • hass

      Yes but if the US and Iran start to talk about their common ground etc. then one day Iran and the US may start to get along ... and Israel does not want to see that. Remember, when the US decided to "go to China" and recognize that country and engage it, the pro-Taiwanese lobby was marginalized and Taiwan lost its status to Washington. Israel does not want to see the US and Iran get along for the same reason – so AIPAC has made provoking a war between US and Iran priority

      September 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Reply
      • Clint

        ...and see my comment about sanctions below on how AIPAC is raping US foreign policy....

        September 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
      • Kevin

        Oh man and I was just starting to think American foreign policy was actually controlled by Americans. Thanks for reminding us that the small state of Israel somehow manages to control the most powerful country in the worlds foreign policy. I'm sure we'd be best friends with Iran if it wasn't for Israel.

        September 1, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
      • Kam

        couldn't have possibly said it better.

        September 1, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
      • Thinker23

        Oh that almighty AIPAC again... No wonder the Jew-haters among us believe (and repeat at every occasion) that the Jews are "chosen". How else would they succeed in ruling the US and, probably, the rest of the civilized world while the Arabs and Muslims in general are unable to create an even more powerful lobby despite their 100:1 numbers and almost unlimited amount of petrodollars in their disposal?

        September 2, 2011 at 6:00 am |
  5. Clint

    You say: “The United States needs to give up quixotic illusions of “containing” Iran or making the Islamic Republic disappear. Washington needs, instead, to recognize the Islamic Republic’s importance in the regional balance and come to terms with it. ”

    Exactly correct. Now compare that with what is being proposed:

    http://original.antiwar.com/yousaf-butt/2011/08/25/iran-sanctions-built-to-fail/

    excerpt:

    “….the US sanctions can only be lifted after the President certifies to Congress “that the government of Iran has: (1) released all political prisoners and detainees; (2) ceased its practices of violence and abuse of Iranian citizens engaging in peaceful political activity; (3) conducted a transparent investigation into the killings and abuse of peaceful political activists in Iran and prosecuted those responsible; and (4) made progress toward establishing an independent judiciary.”

    And – just in case those conditions were not unrealistically stringent and comprehensive – the President has to further certify that “the government of Iran has ceased supporting acts of international terrorism and no longer satisfies certain requirements for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism; and [that] Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of nuclear, biological, chemical, and ballistic weapons.”

    Many US allies, such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, could not satisfy all these conditions.

    So even if Iran were to stop all uranium enrichment and dump all their centrifuges into the Persian Gulf, shutter their nuclear program entirely, and re-task all their nuclear physicists to work in Chocolate factories, Iran would still be sanctioned by the US Congress.

    The UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions are only a little better than the unilateral US ones in that they have only marginally less impossible goals….”

    Laughable!

    The only reading of western propaganda is a prelude to war.

    September 1, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Reply
    • Kevin

      Clint come back when you're not basing your naive arguments on people like Noam Chomsky or anti-American propaganda sites like anti-war.com. The entire Iranian regime is based on anti-Americanism. Obama genuinely tried to engage them and all he got was childish insults and taunts. Iran has never been genuinely interested in engagement. They may pretend they are but they are not and never will be. What all these people who talk of engagement really want is appeasement for thirty years of bad behavior.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Reply
      • Clint

        So anti-war is anti-american? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

        September 1, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
      • Kam

        Sounds like you've been watching FOX news again, haven't you?

        September 1, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  6. Clint

    Noam Chomsky:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/video/2011/aug/31/noam-chomsky-terrorism-video

    September 1, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  7. Clint

    The mullahs are completely sane to hide their enrichment facilities...if they don't the crazy looney on the block Israel is sure to bomb them.....

    September 1, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Why would Israel bomb PEACEFUL Iranian facilities, genius? By the way, Israel is NOT at war with Iran yet...

      September 2, 2011 at 7:43 am | Reply
  8. Clint

    Is it OK to preventatively bomb someone who is about to preventatively bomb you?

    September 1, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      It definitely IS OK to bomb someone who is going to bomb you in case there is no other way to stop him/her/them... Just as it is OK for a cop to shoot someone pointing a gun at him.

      September 2, 2011 at 5:54 am | Reply
      • Clint

        So it is OK for Iran to bomb Israel?

        September 2, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  9. Clint

    I am looking for evidence of Iran's nuclear weapons program...does anyone know if there is any?

    September 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Reply
    • Kam

      clint, why don't you ask kevin.

      September 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Reply
      • Kevin

        The IAEA has plenty of evidence that there are military dimensions to Irans nuclear program. Iran won't cooperate. Iran has hidden parts of its nuclear program for decades. Iran is working on modified missiles specifically for carrying nuclear payloads. Iran is working on special triggers that have no purpose other than setting off a nuclear bomb. Many countries and the IAEA have credible evidence of all those things while Iran stonewalls the investigation and refuses to answer any questions. Only an idiot would believe they aren't trying to acquire a nuclear weapon. It is obvious. Everybody knows it. Even Iran's allies know they want a nuclear weapon they just deny it in public for political reasons because they want Iran to have a nuclear bomb. Try common sense sometime. You need to wake up.

        September 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
      • Clint

        Lack of cooperation is not evidence of a nuclear weapons program.

        Of course Iran wants to hide its nuclear ENRICHMENT program - otherwise the Israelis will bomb it.

        On how the West tried to politicize the IAEA:

        http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/4427/the-case-against-elbaradei#comments

        I repeat: there is no evidence of any Iranian nuclear weapons program....else please let me know what it is?

        September 2, 2011 at 6:23 am |
    • Thinker23

      Clint: If you're looking for vidence of Iranian nuclear program look no further than hundreds of intermediate- and long-range missiles Iran acquired during the last deveral years which are virtually harmless without proper warheads. unless you can explain HOW will Iranian leaders possibly use these missiles in case they DO NOT plan to get warheads you should agree with me that they DO plan on getting warheads for their missiles.

      September 2, 2011 at 5:34 am | Reply
      • Clint

        Um....maybe they want to have a deterrent against a pro_US Iraq?

        I have no clue what the hell they will do with their missiles - but that is NO EVIDENCE of a nuclear weapons program, OK?

        That is evidence of a ballistic missile program: maybe they will put conventional or chemical or bio weapons on it, although I am not sure they have the latter two either.

        September 2, 2011 at 6:25 am |
      • Thinker23

        Clint: I have to agree with your stament thatyou have no clue... but the Iranian ballistic missiles program has two possible explanations: either the leaders of Iran are LIARS and they have plans to acquire proper warheads for their missiles costing about $3 million each or, alternatively, they are complete idiots spending billions on useless toys. Somehow I do not think that they are idiots, however. Further, it is entirely possible that the Iranians are developing chemical and biological weapons in addition to nuclear ones but I have not seen any evidence supporting this suggestion. Iranian refusal to get supplies of non-military grade enriched uranium instead of enriching it itself speaks volumes about their plans as well. Again, I agree that you don't have a clue. Try to get it!

        September 2, 2011 at 6:59 am |
      • Clint

        Our Director of National Intelligence says there is no nuclear weapons program.

        The ex-DG of the IAEA for 12 years also says the same.

        See the citations provided in the following article to senate hearings and a New Yorker article by Hersch.

        http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MH16Ak03.html

        So I don't doubt that people have small imaginations so think Iran must be weaponizing, but alas there is no EVIDENCE of it. There is just hype.

        September 2, 2011 at 7:12 am |
      • Clint

        To the Thinker genius: Iran is not enriching to military grade: 20% U enrichment is considered LEU by the IAEA.

        You have shown the full extent of your confusion and lack of technical knowledge and have provided NO EVIDENCE at all that Iran has a nuclear weapons program

        September 2, 2011 at 7:14 am |
      • Thinker23

        Clint: Lies and denials are not very convincing arguments in a debate. I've NOT said that Iran was enriching uranium to the military grade. i've said that it REFUSED to take such non-military grade enriched uranium from other countries suggesting that Iran was going to enrich it further. In addition, you were unable to answer my simple question: How will Iranian leaders possible use its ballistic missiles? As long as you're unable to offer a BETTER suggestion the statement "Iran is going to develop proper warheads to fit them" will remain the BEST answer you ARE able to offer, certainly a better one than "I do not have a clue". Do't forget it.

        September 2, 2011 at 7:31 am |
      • Thinker23

        Saying "There are no Iranian nuclear weapons program" CAN NOT be considered as evidence that such program does not exist no matter who said it. At best, any person can say that he/she/them did not see evidence of the existence of such program. In this case, even a latter statement is not true as the Iranian basllistic missiles program clearly suggest that the Iranians are planning to fit suitable warheads on these missiles.

        September 2, 2011 at 7:37 am |
      • Clint

        Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient who spent more than a decade as the director of the IAEA, recently told investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that he had not "seen a shred of evidence that Iran has been weaponizing, in terms of building nuclear-weapons facilities and using enriched materials ... I don't believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran."

        google it!

        September 2, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  10. Onesmallvoice

    This pleases me as maybe the right-wing thugs in Washington may not be so successful in these countries as they have been in Iraq and Libya. Hopefully Syria will ride out the Western finances "rebellion" there and Ahmedinejad in Iran mat wake up and realize that his country's on Washington's calendar of conquest and do something about it!

    September 1, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Reply
  11. Pirouz

    The Leveretts' analyses have proven reliable over time. Food to see CNN has published them here. Would like to see them featured on CNN TV programming, as well.

    September 1, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  12. Friend of Iran

    Leverett's analysis and conclusions that Assad Gov't will likely stay in power may be correct, however, should the Syrian regime fall, the new gov't would not be sympathetic to IR. IR regime has been overtly and covertly supporting the Assad gov't to put down the uprising, and any new revolutionary gov't coming into power after Assad would not forget the blood letting that was supported by the butchers in Teheran. It is more likely that the new regime would look to the west to help with setting up a democratic government that could end up winning back the Golan Heights.

    September 1, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Reply
  13. Louise O'Brien - Aussie

    Very good article. It is good to see that real journalism is still alive and well in the USA.

    September 1, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Reply
    • Iranian

      A really excellent piece. Syrians know that the US will never support the return of the Golan Hights and that Iran is the only country that will support their demand for its return in a meaningful way. Also, Assad is no Mubarak and even if he was, the Islamic Republic is strong and stable. It has also "won" Iraq from the US. The US should stop listening to its foolish "experts" and start listening to intelligent and realistic people like the Leveretts.

      September 2, 2011 at 12:50 am | Reply
      • Thinker23

        Syrians know that the US will never support the return of the Golan Hights...

        Can you explain WHY the US will never support the return of the Golan Heights? If the Syrians will produce a government ABLE AND WILLING to make peace with Israel (just like Egypt did in 1978) then a peace agreement will be negotiated. This peace agreement will define the official borders between israel and Syria and it is possible that most of the Golan Heights will go back to Syria. Again, AHY will the US never support peace between Syria and Israel?

        September 2, 2011 at 5:39 am |
  14. coco199

    Year 2011 is not only Arab spring-summer-autumn-winter but the beginning of Muslim Democracy.

    1) Iran has a lot of problems; internal and external; internal with its own citizens and external with own image.

    2)If K.S.A. has the chances to advance on reforms the Iran Islamic republic will have a new bloody revolution,sooner or later. Iranian's political discourse is dictatorship's(common denominator = "the enemy is waiting to attack" and false problems make the domestic policy too).
    The facts: middle class and high class are smart and against the regime;low class is very poor and begins to question his position;diaspora is full against the regime(and not under control as Syrian's)
    The examples to follow :the revolutions in Middle East and North Africa.There aren't Arab countries (populations) with desire to follow their religious path neither politics.The success Muslim countries for the Muslim world are Turkey and Malaysia.
    3)So Mubarak said Egypt is not Tunisia and Gaddafi said Libya is not Egypt ;Assad says that Syria is not Libya.
    4)Soon US and Russia have to reform their weapons industry because of two different reasons:no money/no buyers.

    September 2, 2011 at 5:13 am | Reply
    • Iranian

      One can keep dreaming about Iran, but there is no doubt that its political order has popular support. Also, Syria knows that the US will never support the return of the Golan Hights. The US will simply continue to blindly cling to the sinking ship called apartheid Israel.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:44 am | Reply
  15. Clint

    The sanctions are making the political power of Ahmedinejad stronger and stronger.

    Maybe we want to see if we can have effective sanctions or maybe diplomacy?

    http://original.antiwar.com/yousaf-butt/2011/08/25/iran-sanctions-built-to-fail/

    excerpt:

    “….the US sanctions can only be lifted after the President certifies to Congress “that the government of Iran has: (1) released all political prisoners and detainees; (2) ceased its practices of violence and abuse of Iranian citizens engaging in peaceful political activity; (3) conducted a transparent investigation into the killings and abuse of peaceful political activists in Iran and prosecuted those responsible; and (4) made progress toward establishing an independent judiciary.”

    And – just in case those conditions were not unrealistically stringent and comprehensive – the President has to further certify that “the government of Iran has ceased supporting acts of international terrorism and no longer satisfies certain requirements for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism; and [that] Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of nuclear, biological, chemical, and ballistic weapons.”

    Many US allies, such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, could not satisfy all these conditions.

    So even if Iran were to stop all uranium enrichment and dump all their centrifuges into the Persian Gulf, shutter their nuclear program entirely, and re-task all their nuclear physicists to work in Chocolate factories, Iran would still be sanctioned by the US Congress.

    The UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions are only a little better than the unilateral US ones in that they have only marginally less impossible goals….”

    September 2, 2011 at 6:26 am | Reply
  16. MoreAware

    These writers persuade Iranians not to worry further, because they are insurmountable. So they should relax and leave Syria alone to become like Libya conquered. One by one imperialist vanquish them. Iran nationalist, independent regime should be vigilant and not to go to sleep. Iranians are the next in agenda. Gadhafi negotiated everything with the imperialists but at the end they stabbed him in the bed since he was independent. Imperialists bought time for themselves and allowed him to sleep in delusion that he was not in danger anymore. His regime was secular, negotiating just like Kuwaitis except that Kuwaitis are servile puppet. Iran and Syria should take the lesson. Do not allow to be over-powered by mobs in the streets. In the core of Syrian uprising there is no element of democracy. It is only paid agitators linked to Saudi Arabs. Do not lose your vigilance. Fight to the end against imperialism. You can win.

    September 2, 2011 at 7:15 am | Reply
    • Kevin

      Why don't you ask Libyans how they feel about those "imperialists" who helped liberate from a cruel dictator who was butchering them while "independent" countries like Iran did absolutely nothing. How precisely was Libya "conquered" without boots on the ground? Would you have rather the "imperialists" left Gaddafi alone to slaughter his people like Assad is doing? Irans puppet Assad is finished. Deal with it. False rhetoric changes nothing.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:47 am | Reply
  17. Clint

    Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient who spent more than a decade as the director of the IAEA, recently told investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that he had not "seen a shred of evidence that Iran has been weaponizing, in terms of building nuclear-weapons facilities and using enriched materials ... I don't believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran."

    google it!

    September 2, 2011 at 7:27 am | Reply
    • Kevin

      El Baradei deliberately protected Iran's nuclear weapons program. Fortunately he is not there anymore. He was a disaster for the IAEA. More proliferation took place under his watch than any other director in the history of the IAEA. I'm getting tired of these Iranian stooges who the terrorist regime in Iran pays to go around and make false comments on blogs and articles about Iran. They have admitted that they do that. It is pathetic and cannot fool anyone with half a brain and a basic knowledge of what is really going on.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:52 am | Reply
      • Clint

        What to do about Iran's nonexistent nuclear weapons program:

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/madison-schramm/irans-nuclear-program-deal_b_941718.html

        September 2, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  18. Jason

    I have been following this fascinating thread. It is difficult to say what I am about to say without sounding like I am denigrating one group or another – I do not mean to, I am making an observation.

    In very broad brush outlines....

    Those in favor of engagement use intelligence, diplomatic, scientific appraisals of Iran's programs and capabilities to argue for the "absence of evidence" of a nuclear weapons-directed program – noting that nuclear capability of Iran is public knowledge. Combined with other general interests of the US around the world, the absence of evidence forms the basis in favor of engagement.

    Those in favor of various levels of coercive measure against Iran use "intuition", "the nature of mullahs", "suggests that", and "no evidence of absence" arguments to promote Obama's continuation of Bush policies.

    No amount of evidence or discussion (short of proving the negative - an impossible task) will bring the two groups together.

    One may wonder whether or not this divide in the "public" discourse has any resemblance to the debate in the US government quarters. It is doubtful!!

    September 2, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  19. coco199

    Iran is completely desperate to develop nuclear weapons. Why I say it?

    An International Atomic Energy Agency report, dated and leaked Friday, said Iran continues to defy U.N. resolutions aimed at curbing its nuclear program and cited "increasing" concerns it may be developing nuclear weapons.

    During the last decade Iran continues to deny the real international access at IAEA.
    If it not developing it,why the secrecy?

    September 2, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Reply
  20. John

    One thing this article completely avoids discussing is the people of Iran. If Syria falls, the people will be even more empowered spiritually to, with even greater zeal, revolt against the unpopular Iranian government. Iranian people will see Iran's only true ally gone which will give them more hope for the possibility of a brighter future which will cause them to spill into the streets in the millions like in 1979 and revolt. It is a shame that an educated author such as this one completely ignores the power of the will of the Iranian people should Syrian fall, and even encourages the US government to come to terms with Iran's autocratic and repressive unpopular government.

    September 4, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  21. Mohamed Asik, India

    i think Iran will not attack America if he produced nuclear bomb in future. One think i want to say that, 9/11 attack happen due to america supporting Terrorist nations like Israel.
    I strongly against Terrorist Osama bin laden who killed thousands of innocence in twin tower, Islam is not teaching to kill innocence.
    Iran is against Israel not america, Israel is killing my peoples in gaza daily. Our mothers lost her son, our sisters lost her husbands............ummmmmm.etc...

    So stop supporting Israel,

    now 2011 – muslims mentality is "america is killer and terrorist nation"
    After 2020 – muslims mentality will be "I like america, for america i can do anything, i will give my oil or gold"
    All mullahs will directly give speech, Support america, america is god send country to save muslims from terorist Israel.

    September 11, 2011 at 7:13 am | Reply
  22. Matt

    You watch Egypt after the veto at the UN on a Palestinian State. The media go to Tahir interview a handful of people and are told how they like America, the majority are talking about the US veto against the Palestinians. There is going to be a reaction to this in Egypt, when Americans see Egyptians burning US flags and protesting, perhaps even trying to attack the embassy. Things have not even started to get warm yet, then it will sink in.

    The same thing will happen in Jordan.

    The Saudis look out for the Saudi there stance on the veto is about protecting their interests, and they are more worried because of the Arab Spring, so if they back the US on this it has implications for their own stability.

    September 16, 2011 at 4:08 am | Reply

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