Could They Trick Obama On Iran?

A group of Iran experts, former officials and lobbyists who deceived Obama 4 years ago have launched a new campaign. They are telling that the Iranian Mullahs are ready for compromise and US should accept their red lines, lift the sanctions and secure regime’s future


On December 16, three former US officials asked the Congress to stop “messing up sanctions against Iran” and declared that: “the time is ripe for a deal (with Iran) and wrong for more sanctions.”

Similarly, an army of Iran experts, lobbyists and former officials campaign hard to convince the Obama administration that the Iranian regime is willing to compromise and this is a “unique”, “unprecedented” and probably “unrepeatable” opportunity for US to cut a deal with Tehran.

Gary Sick, a veteran of rapprochement with Iran advised Obama and wrote: “The history of U.S.-Iran relations is a story of relentless hostility and serial missed opportunities. Chances for genuine progress come along scarcely once in a decade. So, Mr. President, here is one more piece of free advice: The present constellation of circumstances with Iran is probably the best you’re going to get. Don’t let it pass.”

Reza Marashi a NIAC lobbyist declared that “Tehran looks ready to tango (with US)“. NIAC is a Washington based advocacy group viewed by many Iranians as a lobby for the Iranian regime. Government press in Tehran call NIAC the “Iran lobby in Washington”.

Joining the chorus, Laura Rozen wrote  in Al Monitor that “Ali Akbar Velayati, the longtime foreign policy advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is likely to run for Iran’s presidency next year, and if elected would take a more pragmatic stance to ease soaring tensions with the West that have isolated Iran and hurt its economy, a former Iranian diplomat told Al Monitor. The former diplomat expressed optimism that Iran would reach a negotiated solution with the West over its nuclear program by June of next year, when Iranian presidential elections are due to be held.”

Banafsheh Keynoosh (Ahmadinejad’s former translator and NIAC co-founder) wrote for Almonitor that: “Navigating the maze of Iranian politics is complicated, but a pattern seems to be clear.  Whatever the difference on tactics, Iran, including the hard-liners, who are in the ascendancy, are ready to deal with the United States.”

There are  just a few samples of daily declarations by a group of “Iran experts” who promote friendship with Tehran. But strangely enough, for the past two decades and regardless of situation or who has been in power in Iran, these experts have constantly arrived at the same conclusion that a pragmatist, moderate, realist, or reformist faction in Iran is ready to compromise and resolve US concerns. And every time, they declared that the Iranian willingness is unique and unprecedented.

A revealing example of this troubling expertise could be found in  CFR’s Ray Takeyh who recently wrote that “Iran’s Conservatives Push for a Deal” with the US. For the past ten years, Takeyh has always arrived at the same conclusion:

2000, Khatami’s presidency and peak of the power of reformists: “We get a better deal on all issues of concern, the holy trinity – weapons, terrorism, and Israel – from the reformers, who are more pragmatists than the hard-liners.” (Takeyh, R., in Middle East Policy Council. December 12th, 2000)

2002: “This time, with public opinion in favor of reaching out to Washington, Iranian political groups of all complexion are loath to let the opportunity (of a deal) pass.”(Takeyh, R., in Financial Times. November 4, 2002.)

2004 ,Defeat of reformists and rise of Ahmadinejad: “The recent demise of the reform movement has facilitated the ascendance of pragmatic conservatives willing to have a far-reaching dialogue with the United States. At a time when the challenge of Iran seems most acute, the prospect of Tehran accommodating Washington has never been greater.”( Takeyh, R., in International Herald Tribune. August 24, 2004.)

2004: “For the first time in more than 20 years, the United States has the opportunity to deal with rational, pragmatic interlocutors who, by virtue of their standing in the government, are in a position to negotiate. It is an opportunity that should not be squandered.”  (Takeyh, R., in Washington Quarterly. Autumn 2004.)

2005 , Ahmadinejd is elected as the president: “Despite the election of a hard-line government in Iran, the time surprisingly might be ripe for a deal.”  (Feinstein, L. and R. Takeyh, in The Baltimore Sun. September 26, 2005.)

2007: “In Iran today the idea of negotiating with the United States as late as 1999, 2001, was a contentious issue. Now there is a consensus in Iran, across political spectrum, blessed by the supreme leader, that Iran is willing to negotiate with the United States.” (Takeyh, R., in a speech. February 22, 2007.)

2008: “It is also clear that today’s Iranian leaders are capable of selective, constructive dialogue with the United States and that they have cross-factional support for direct, authoritative dialogue with their American adversaries—a condition that did not exist for most of the past thirty years.” [Emphasis is mine] (Maloney and Takeyh, CFR and Brookings, “Pathway to Coexistence: A New U.S. Policy toward Iran”)

It is interesting to see how under very different situations, and cast of characters in power in Iran, Takeyh managed to arrive at the same conclusion. But Takeyh is just a revealing example of those who have constantly mal-advised the US administration. Ironically, the influence, stature and prestige of these “experts” grew despite the enormity of their miscalculations.

At every turning point when the American policy makers arrived at an impasse with Iran and were ready to examine tougher policies, these experts gave advice and fresh hope that someone will emerge in the gloom of tyranny in Iran and would resolve US concerns.

The policy recommendations by these experts have also been very clear as it was explained by Takey and Vali Nasr: “the United States would do better to shelve its containment strategy and embark on a policy of unconditional dialogue and sanctions relief”.  Accordingly, Takeyh told in an interview with CFR that the “U.S. Can Only Stop Iranian Nuclear Program by Offering Broad Concessions.”Trita Parsi president of NIAC recommended that the US should accept Iran’s influence in the region and share the Middle East with the Mullahs.

As the Obama administration is reviewing its Iran policy, it is wise to remember that the first step to adopt a sane and sound policy is to dismiss the advice given by the above mentioned lobbyists and experts.  These are the same people who in 2009 advised Obama to ignore the Iranian popular uprising and instead, invest in futile negotiations with theocratic rulers.

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