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The New "Useful Idiots" of the Iranian Mullahs: Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett

There is an influx of new “useful idiots” these days -- the term attributed to Lenin which refers to all the Western dupes who buy the lies of the Communists and who do their bidding without realizing it. But this time, since the Soviet Union no longer exists and a love affair with Communist Cuba has become somewhat passé, the shift in support of repressive regimes has turned to none other than that of the mullahs' Iran.

This was made clear in a recent issue of The Nation, which featured an article by our country’s two most notorious apologists for the brutal Iranian regime: Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett. Titled “The Real Challenge from Iran,” the mullahs' new American spokespeople argue that most people are spreading myths about Iran, calling the regime “irrational, illegitimate and vulnerable.” Rather than being “despised by its own people,” they argue, the current regime is based on “participatory politics,” “elections with the principles and institutions of Islamic governance, and a commitment to foreign policy independence.”

It is, they conclude, “what a majority of Iranians living inside the country want.”

Reading this, I get a feeling of déjà vu, since it reminds me of the scores of articles the magazine used to run from the 1930s through the 1960s about how wonderful and progressive Stalin’s Soviet Union was. The fellow travelers of the Old Left always argued that the people supported the Soviet regime; that all the stories of executions, a vast secret police, repression, and a huge prison system were lies spread by the right-wing press and by anti-Communist émigrés. If some of their claims turned out to be true, it was the fault of the West and the United States, who forced them to turn to repression to protect the revolution always under fire from the oppressors of the capitalist nations.

It is therefore not surprising that The Nation would stay true to its roots, as if nothing had been learned since those long ago days of the Cold War. In their article, the Leveretts claim that the Green movement had no internal support, that the government itself closed bad prisons where inmates were treated harshly, that most of those arrested during anti-government rallies were released, and that polls reveal the Iranian people view their government’s opposition to the Greens “as legitimate.”

Therefore, they argue, policymakers should accept the regime, end the sanctions against it that only hurt the innocent Iranian people, not oppose Iran developing an atomic weapon, stop the war against Assad and Syria, and understand that Tehran needs the Arab governments only to be “less pro-American, less pro-Israel, and more independent.”

Also, the U.S. has to accept the reality that the Iranian Islamic Republic will not be transformed “into a secular liberal state.”

Written under the guise of policy advice for the U.S. government, what the Leveretts have really written is an apologia for tyranny, in which they repeat every lie of the regime regarding how it has continually negotiated in good faith with Western powers to reach a solution on the nuclear issue, only to be rebuffed by the warlike American government that wants to use talks as an excuse to destroy the mullahs. If only that were true! (As our colleague Michael Ledeen says: “Faster, please!”)

Indeed, their solution is rather simple: the U.S. “must accept “Iran’s nuclear rights.” Just as the Old Left used to argue that the Soviets wanted peace and the U.S. had to accept its needs for secure regimes on its borders, the Leveretts say that now the U.S. has to recognize “Iran’s core security concerns.” The regime’s behavior, therefore, is our fault. If we do not accept its demands, our country will be seen as one acting without any legitimacy and be rightfully seen as “an outlaw superpower.”

In their eyes, we should not oppose radical Islam, but should instead improve our ties with “Islamist political order across the Middle East.” The goal should be “rapprochement with the Islamic Republic.”

All of these themes are spelled out in more detail in their new, widely publicized book titled Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Fortunately, two reviews appearing today decimate their argument in the most cogent way.