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The Leveretts' Myopic Advice to Obama

In Sunday's New York Times, a remarkable and thoroughly wrongheaded op-ed by Flynn Everett and Hillary Mann Leverett takes up three-quarters of a page, and reveals not only the authors' myopia, but the dangerous advice they and other "realists" have for the Obama administration.

The issue is Iran, and what to do about their dangerous march towards attainment of a nuclear bomb. The authors begin with a judgment call: Obama's policy towards Iran has already failed.  The regime has not stopped its move towards enrichment of uranium; the antagonism between the US and Iran has not diminished; indeed, it has arguably become worse. What should Obama do about this?

To the Leveretts, the ball is totally in America's court. Iran is not the power that has to stop working day and night to attain the bomb; it is the United States that must show its willingness to "assuage Iranian skepticism about America's willingness to end efforts to topple the regime and pursue comprehensive diplomacy."

The Leveretts recommend that the Obama administration end any covert programs now in effect to destabilize what they persistently call "the Islamic Republic."  All of Iran's hostility to the United States is not due to the extremist ideology of the mullahs, but rather to a "fundamentally defensive reaction to the American government campaign to bring about regime change."

While many conservative commentators worry that the Obama administration is already showing it is willing to live with a nuclear Iran and is on the road to appeasement, the Leveretts believe that the Obama administration is carrying out George W. Bush's policies to the letter. Obama's rhetoric, such as his March greeting to Iran is simply rhetoric, they argue, but the policies he is  following are simply Bush continued.

 They point to Hillary Clinton's skepticism that diplomacy will work, and most important of all, they are concerned that the President appointed Dennis Ross, a well known supporter of Israel and a hardliner on Iran, to be his point man on diplomacy with the Iranian regime. Ross supports "engagement with pressure," and the Leveretts want the first carried out, and all pressure to be dropped. They claim that last summer Ross admitted to them that he was advocating a diplomatic course only so that in the future, the next President will have to order a military strike against Iran, and diplomacy needs to be undertaken first for the President "to claim any military action was legitimate."

Its sounds nefarious, but Ross spoke to them during the campaign- not now in his official capacity- and what he was saying was simply expressing a well founded skepticism about the intention of the mullahs. Evidently the Leveretts think Ross is angling for a US offer that Iran cannot accept, which will lead to "international support for coercive action."

So the Leveretts first suggest that we do not do what they seem to think only Israel favors: a deadline by which Iran has to show it is stopping nuclear enrichment. Drop the deadline, they say, as well as all other "American conditions for limiting its nuclear activities." What they never address is the destabilizing effect an Iranian bomb will have on the entire Middle East, and the dangerous situation it would create throughout the entire world. In their eyes, giving the Iranians what they want now is the sole and only road to peace.