Flynt Leverett


Flynt Leverett, former Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council, discusses his article “Hype or Reality: Will Israel Attack Iran Before the U.S. Presidential Election;” Israel’s inability to cripple Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities without putting boots on the ground; why the US may not join the fight if Iran’s response is limited and doesn’t result in American casualties; how Obama’s “feckless” style of leadership is failing to dissuade Bibi Netanyahu from attacking Iran; indications that Mossad accepts the 2007 Iran NIE’s conclusions, and isn’t eager to start a war; Israel’s policy choices in response to the Arab Spring; and the lost opportunity in 2003 to engage Iran in talks, which could have converted Hamas and Hezbollah into demilitarized political organizations.

MP3 here. (29:55)

Flynt Leverett runs The Race For Iran blog and teaches at Pennsylvania State University’s School of International Affairs. Additionally, he directs the Iran Project at the New America Foundation, where he is a Senior Research Fellow.

Dr. Leverett is a leading authority on the Middle East and Persian Gulf, U.S. foreign policy, and global energy affairs. From 1992 to 2003, he had a distinguished career in the U.S. government, serving as Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council, on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, and as a CIA Senior Analyst. He left the George W. Bush Administration and government service in 2003 because of disagreements about Middle East policy and the conduct of the war on terror.

Dr. Leverett’s 2006 monograph, Dealing With Tehran: Assessing U.S. Diplomatic Options Toward Iran, presented the seminal argument for a U.S.-Iranian “grand bargain”, an idea that he has developed in multiple articles and Op Eds in The New York Times, The National Interest, POLITICO, Salon, Washington Monthly, and the New America Foundation’s “Big Ideas for a New America” series.

22 thoughts on “Flynt Leverett”

  1. This is interesting.

    I don't know of an agreed upon deadline to determine whether the "tougher sanctions" have "worked" or not. If a 'deadline' is ever established by the Obama Administration, it would probalby be after the general election (November 2012), as a military strike on Iran would affect several variables and imply unpredictable consequences…so even assuming ‘if’ Obama wanted to lead a military strike against Iran, it wouldn’t seem to be in his interest to do so before the general election. It's safer for Obama simply to talk about, "debate", imaginary solutions to domestic problems on the campaign trail–comparing them against the imaginary solutions put forth by, say, Romney or Gingrich; rather than address real issues…much less possibly try to explain why gasoline prices are going through the roof, and why his "imaginary" solutions to bring gasoline prices under control in the short term aren't working.

  2. (…)
    Since Israel cannot rely with 100% certainty, or even close, that Obama will command a US military strike on Iran if he is reelected, why wouldn’t Israel independently strike Iran at the soonest (weather permitting and opportunistic) possible time? There are obvious potential geopolitical and security considerations and constraints; however, for the most part, these would be the same in the future. If the decision in Israel has already been made to attack Iran (which could be the case) it would logically be ‘better’ to strike sooner rather than later.

    1. Israel is never going to attack. They do not have refueling planes. Saudia Arabia has been told if they allow their air space to the attacking Israel they will be attacked by Iran. Saudia Arabia cannot hold against the Iran and it would lead to revolution in Saudia Arabia. Iraq would not allow Israel to use their air space. The survivors of the tens of thousand killed in Iraq fully understand the roll of Israel in getting their loved ones killed. George understands if they allow Israel to launch from Georgia the nation of Georgia will become a destroyed place with russia tanks on every corned and the hebrew speaking president hanging the most central light post.
      Israel planes cannot handle the heavy loads and if they get the refuel planes they will be in a pickle as the fresh and light iranian planes attack. Israel would be forced to drop extra fuel and the very heavy bunker busting bombs. Israel has no stealth planes so the would be in a turkey shot from the time the pilots walk to thier planes to the less than 1/2 that would probably survive the first attack. How many planes does Israel have to lose. If Israel does it without tell and getting the approval who is going to replace the lost planes. If Israel loses it advanced air force then it will really be in a pickle.
      The idea of Israel attacking Iran is so stupid as to be a comic act. It is not going to happen if Bibi is stupid enough to try he will face probably tens of thousands survivors of the Israel military dead.

      1. The speculation is that Saudi Arabia has already given Israel the green light to use its airspace to attack Iran. With respect to Iraq, I assume the Iraqis will shoot down Israeli jets flying over Iraq’s airspace if they don't acquire the required "permission slip" to do so, just like the Iraqis shot down the scary US spy drones that are getting everyone all worked up?

        Whether it's a good idea or a bad idea is somewhat irrelevant. This is not an idle threat from my estimation. History is full of irrational, ill-conceived, and even (and especially) unsuccessful military attacks. It’s actually the norm; rather than the exception.

        1. The Iranians have two ships in harbor in Saudi Arabia. I think the Saudis would be too smart to give permission. They might try to scramble jets and miss them in a show but that will do a lot of harm. If the Iranians can pick up on the attacking forces it will be a major problem because the planes are loaded with the bunker busters. That extra weight will make the planes need more refueling and very limited in the ability to move around.
          In the case of iraq all the have to do is pass on the information of were the planes are and it will put the planes in a pickle.
          It is beyond a bad idea. It is almost a death wish on the part of the Israel if they do attack. YOu can be sure that gasoline will be $10 before the planes that do make the attack gets home. The operation requires many attacks which means that the USA will get involved.
          I can see the Saudi falling and Egypt is already lost. Israel will probably on high alert for a very long time. Iran lost a million men in the iraq war that means they still have a lot of combat experienced soldiers while the IDF has not been in a successful military operation since 1973.

  3. (…)
    If Israel strikes ‘ASAP’, the worst case scenario is: Obama doesn’t back Israel now, Obama gets reelected, and Obama continues to refuse to back Israel and refuses to command a US strike on Iran. Obama could hypothetically refuse to strike Iran if he’s reelected even if Israel doesn’t strike before the US election–at which point Iran would have theoretically fortified their nuclear enrichment program–potentially making any kind of airstrike useless (in the doomsday scenario currently being discussed by Israeli officials)..

    On the other hand, the best case scenario for Israel if they strike Iran now (accepting this would benefit Israel in the first place) is that: Israel strikes Iran ‘now’…Obama, in turn, decides to not only back Israel, but further decides (for whatever reason) to command a US follow up strike(s) on Iran ‘now’.

  4. “If you don’t know history,
    its as if your born yesterday”

    Howard Zinn

    Since 1945, everything that Empire USA and Israel have done has greatly enhanced the wealth of the Western corporate rich. Therefore, all of the politics in both nations is pure fiction and a smokescreen (something that blinds the mind by burning the emotions) to hide the reality of an absolute top-down dictatorship ruled by the corporate rich.

  5. According to missile engineer Bob Aldridge Pentagon aims to achieve a disarming first-strike capability. Bob Aldridge wrote on the US Missile Shield in Europe: "Whether they are on ships or land, they are still a necessary component for an unanswerable first strike." The US Navy can track and destroy all enemy submarines simultaneously according to Bob Aldridge.
    The warheads on Minuteman-3 and Trident-2 are designed to minimize nuclear winter effects if used against missile silos according to Professor Paul Rogers. Because of GPS they can hit within 30 meters of the target, enough to destroy a missile silo.
    Dr Bob Bowman, Chief DOD "Star Wars" Program, pointed out that missile defense is the missing link to first strike.
    Der Spiegel 49/2011 informs that it´s operational by 2020. Of course, this leads to Launch On Warning and danger of Accidental Nuclear War.

    1. Claus, you appear to be a one-trick pony. Anyone who has been on this site for any amount of time has heard this argument from you countless times. Please change up the menu from time to time.

    2. non of those systems has really been tested so I would suggest that what is done on papers might not work in the real world. Iran most likely will attack the USA where it can cause a lot of damage. Take our the George Washington Bridge and you caused more harm to Israel than hitting Israel. Iran does not want this fight and it is clear that they have nothing to lose if it get started. They saw how much it did for Saddam when he tried to make peace. It is a dangerous thought to think all those military industrial complex dollars purchased things that work. Since there is not reason for a war with Iran we should not allow it to happen.

    1. Iran cut off oil to many European nations and greece defaults on its debt. How many other EU nations will go belly up over this insanity? The USA is broke so the $10 a gallon gasoline will not help our economy.

  6. Romney/Ron Paul r israelee ROBOTZmen just like OBama iROcketz ready.

    Khalifah Aaed is ready to wipe 'israel'-amer&can from the Cloud-UE NOW

  7. Suppose this stuff called "hype" is really just a distracter? What is going on behind the scenes to take away more and more of our freedoms while everybody is focusing on this absolutely ridiculous back and forth over Iran? What are the Puppet Masters really up to? We are all being more and more drawn into this nonsense for reasons that are not being talked about. Even the EU is involved now. What is really happening? We are being distracted.

  8. MOT. Sorry, but I´m a bit desperate about it. I have asked many people in the streets, in the bus, at the airport. NOBODY has even heard that the US is deploying missiles in Bulgaria, Romania and Poland. It´s not mentioned in the Media. And it´s also not mentioned that the Pentagon aims to achieve a disarming first strike capability. It´s a secret although GPS was developed for that reason. Hardly anybody but Bob Aldridge knows anything about it. I don´t know what to do. But if we don´t identify the problem we have no chance of solving it. Everybody must be aware that the Pentagon aims to achieve a disarming first strike capability without nuclear winter-for that reason the MX warhead was put on Minuteman-3-and it leads to Launch On Warning by 2020. If everyone is aware of the world´s no. 1 problem, we may get a solution.

  9. Claus,
    Iranians proved that gps can be spoofed. And by that brought down the infamous drone. You are right about first-strike, but getting it is not that clear cut.

    Dear Mr. Leverett
    Everyone ( you included ) talk about the fact that uranium enrichment can be used for bomb.
    Mind you, Iranians has always said they don’t want it, because it is useless. No one talk about the fact that a by-product of uranium enrichment is depleted uranium.
    You know, same stuff US pollutes every place they go to war! And they know that Iranians know how and what to use them for. Remember ‘unbeatable’ israeli tanks in 2006? ‘Conventional’ bunker-busters?’
    This is not about ‘Iranian Nuke’, it’s about disarming those who can beat you in ‘conventional’ war and take away your military edge.

  10. Wrong assumptions result in wrong conclusions.
    Isreal is the VASSAL not the other way around.
    That’s why yaHu spoke in congress, just like bombYa.
    Isreal is working for bigger FISH. And all is for show, but from time to time actors get carried away and think its for real. Its not. Isreal is Notreal, Palestine is. Its a scam just like your banking system. Ask yourself how come in a republic (USA) there’s democracy? Republic and Democracy are not compatible. Democracy is the rule of Demo (mob/majority). Republic on the other hand Re(gis)-Public, reign of public, public are kings!!! Clean up your homestead and everything else falls in place.

  11. not in harbour, docked!
    has US ever won a war? has any other ‘nation’ ?
    all they win is the battle, and only fools think many battles make a war. Generals know that! but they are after all field marshals. chinese understood that a very very long time ago.
    you don’t need a wise president, you need a wise congress. clean up congress. throw out the lair and the fools. put in place (hu)men of good thought, good deed and good speech. presidents after all are the ceo of US inc. the shareholders are the one who deicide. they have turned everything upside down.
    OCCUPY CONGRESS and wallstreet will vanish.

  12. This was a fine, well done interview with a knowledgeable person, but I believe the operative principle in Israeli shenanigans is to just keep things stirred up and cultivate the myth of the perpetual existential theat. This keeps the U.S. and its Zionist and its Israel Firsters on their toes and their wallets open. There is and existential threat to Israel–but it is within their borders looking out of their bathroom mirror each morning.

  13. Perfect Syrian solution — Nationwide poll

    (1) Yes__ No__ Just like Libya, NATO should bomb all military targets, many government buildings and any school or hospital suspected of being used by the military. If large numbers of civilians are killed, so be it.

    (2) Yes__ No__ Just like Libya, NATO should arm a multitude of militias and allow them to rule Syria, even if it causes class war and anarchy.

    (3) Yes__ No__ Just like Libya, NATO nations should be allowed to purchase all the oil produced in Syria at a dirt cheep price, all 401,000 barrows produced each day.

    (4) Yes__ No__ Just like Gaddafi, NATO should allow Assad to be sodomized and brutally killed.

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