February 25, 2013
Inter Press Service

Former Insiders Criticise Iran Policy as U.S. Hegemony

by Gareth Porter

Going to Tehran WASHINGTON -- "Going to Tehran" arguably represents the most important work on the subject of U.S.-Iran relations to be published thus far.

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett* tackle not only U.S. policy toward Iran but the broader context of Middle East policy with a systematic analytical perspective informed by personal experience, as well as very extensive documentation.

More importantly, however, their expose required a degree of courage that may be unparalleled in the writing of former U.S. national security officials about issues on which they worked. They have chosen not just to criticise U.S. policy toward Iran but to analyse that policy as a problem of U.S. hegemony.

Their national security state credentials are impeccable. They both served at different times as senior coordinators dealing with Iran on the National Security Council Staff, and Hillary Mann Leverett was one of the few U.S. officials who have been authorised to negotiate with Iranian officials. . . .

In an analysis of the roots of the legitimacy of the Islamic regime, they point to evidence that the single most important factor that swept the Khomeini movement into power in 1979 was "the Shah's indifference to the religious sensibilities of Iranians". That point, which conflicts with just about everything that has appeared in the mass media on Iran for decades, certainly has far-reaching analytical significance. . . .

They view Iran's nuclear programme as aimed at achieving the same status as Japan, Canada and other "threshold nuclear states" which have the capability to become nuclear powers but forego that option.

The Leveretts also point out that it is a status that is not forbidden by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty - much to the chagrin of the United States and its anti-Iran allies.

In a later chapter, they allude briefly to what is surely the best-kept secret about the Iranian nuclear programme and Iranian foreign policy: the Iranian leadership's calculation that the enrichment programme is the only incentive the United States has to reach a strategic accommodation with Tehran. . . .

The central message of "Going to Tehran" is that the United States has been unwilling to let go of the demand for Iran's subordination to dominant U.S. power in the region. The Leveretts identify the decisive turning point in the U.S. "quest for dominance in the Middle East" as the collapse of the Soviet Union, which they say "liberated the United States from balance of power constraints". . . .

*Flynt Leverett served at the National Security Council, State Department, and CIA and is currently a professor of International Affairs at Penn State. Hillary Man Leverett served at the National Security Council and State Department and negotiated for the U.S. government with Iranian officials; she is now senior professional lecturer at American University.


Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Smedley Butler, "'War is a Racket'," 1933

[AUDIO: Fifty years ago, in a bold and far-reaching covert operation, the CIA overthrew the elected government of Iran. Although the coup seemed successful at first, its "haunting and terrible legacy" is now becoming clear.

Operation Ajax . . . restored Mohammad Reza Shah to the Peacock Throne, allowing him to impose a tyranny that ultimately sparked the Islamic Revolution of 1979.--Stephen Kinzer, "All The Shah's Men," NPR On Point, August 20, 2003]

"'35 or 40' countries able to make nuclear weapons: IAEA chief," AFP, October 30, 2003

"Seven Countries in Five Years"--Gen. Wesley Clark, Commonwealth Club, October 3, 2007

MSNBC Hardball, December 4, 2007

"Are Iran Election Protests U.S. Orchestrated?," The Wisdom Fund, June 21, 2009

Gordon Prather, "The U.S. Is Violating the NPT -- Not Iran,", September 26, 2009

Pepe Escobar, "Surrender Now or We'll Bomb You Later," Asia Times, April 11, 2012

Jack Straw, "Even if Iran gets the Bomb, it won't be worth going to war,", February 23, 2013

Shafaat Shahbandari, "Iran's nuke threat is overhyped: UN official,", March 6, 2013

[The Shah wanted Iran to be capable of meeting a large proportion of its electricity needs without running down oil and gas reserves that were better used to earn foreign exchange.--Peter Jenkins, "Iran's nuclear father gives US a clue,", April 5, 2013]

["Permanent if unacknowledged foreign policy objectives" - the maintenance of a quasi-monopoly of atomic weapons. For Israel, the maintenance of monopoly is also unstated, and the position actually more extreme, unique in fact among the countries of the world. Israel demands the right to sole possession of nuclear weapons in its region, and at regular intervals attacks its neighbors to assert its monopoly aspirations. More surprising still is that Israel has managed to persuade the United States to accept, indeed embrace, its doctrine without so much as a whisper of debate - surprising since it requires the United States to imperil its own economy fighting wars to enforce it.--Scott McConnell, "Iran Nuke Talks: the Real Stakes,", April 8, 2013]

Jonathan Steele, "In this nuclear standoff, it's the US that's the rogue state,", April 9, 2013

Nima Shirazi, "Clapper: Iran Still Not Building Nukes; Sanctions Intended to Foster Unrest,", April 18, 2013

Jim Lobe and Joe Hitchon, "Nuclear Iran Unlikely to Tilt Regional Power Balance, Says Report,", May 21, 2013

Richard Norton-Taylor, "Nuclear states developing new weapons in defiance of treaty, report claims,", June 2, 2013

[For 71 of 159 member states, the IAEA "was not able to get timely responses to agency requests for, or clarification of, safeguards relevant information,"--"Iran not U.N. nuclear watchdog's only headache, report shows,", June 7, 2013]

[Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper's April 2013 report to the Senate Committee on Armed Services: "We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons." . . .

"Iran gained incredible technology. The US didn't want us to have nuclear capability - and we have done so from the basics to where we are now in a peaceful nuclear program. They tried to restrict our knowledge and our development. In these three decades we obtained advanced technologies ourselves - building and launching satellites, developing nanotechnology from scratch, developing a domestic arsenal of weapons,"--Sharmine Narwani, "Why Washington Fears Iran,", June 12, 2013]

Yasha Levine, "Oligarch Valley: How Beverly Hills billionaire farmers Lynda and Stewart Resnick profit from the Iran sanctions they lobbied for,", July 10, 2013

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