Right on Rights

Review of "A Single Roll of the Dice"


Right on Rights
by Ari Siletz

Last time I checked the Amazon reader reviews on Trita Parsi’s A Single Roll of the Dice, nine readers had praised it with 5 stars and six had panned it with one star. There were no in-betweens. Lay critics saw the book either as “mandatory reading,” or “not worth your Dollar.” Scaled up to bestseller proportions, the book seemed to be a scholarly version of The Satanic Verses! Yet no sparks fly out of the book; there are no accusations, bold claims, astonishing revelations or intrepid predictions.

I was disappointed to find the book a straightforward academic work albeit on an important subject: what went wrong with President Obama’s idea of engaging in diplomacy with Iran? The author simply lays out his thesis that opposition from the President’s own cabinet, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Congress, compromised his vision of diplomacy with Iran. Then he goes on to show the rigorous research he’s done that supports his claim. So why is there a drama being played outside the pages of the book by both lay and professional reviewers? This may be the result of tensions over a possible U.S.- Iran war where even a modicum of fresh opinion can upset the pre-war propaganda ecology.

On the anti-diplomacy side Sohrab Ahmari writes in the Wall Street Journal, “Beneath the book's slick presentation, though, political animus simmers. Mr. Parsi accuses a remarkable number of countries, organizations and individuals—including Sunni-Arab states, the European Union, the U.S. Congress and even members of the Obama administration—of having deliberately undermined the president.” From this it can be gathered that in Mr. Ahmari’s preferred narrative the President’s vision of diplomacy with Iran had no opponents and even if it did these opponents stifled their motives and interests, perhaps out of respect for Mr. Obama’s leadership. This is an idyllic scenario of American politics that delivers a simple message easily understood by the public: the President reached out a hand of friendship towards Iran but Iran rejected it. This narrative makes it easier to go to war with Iran.

On the opposite side from Sohrab Ahmari are Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverret, influential Iran analysts who advocate a rapprochement between the U.S. and Ahmadinejad conservatives. In their Boston Review critique of the book they characterize Trita Parsi’s views as “neo-conservatism without guns.” The Leveretts maintain that Trita Parsi’s insistence that U.S.-Iran negotiations should include a human rights agenda paves the way for war with Iran. “In a war-fevered environment a book such as Parsi’s makes a difference,” they say, recognizing that it’s not so much what the book says but when it’s saying it. They see a threat in Single Roll raising doubts about their simple story where the Iranian regime is a legitimate and permanent entity with whom the U.S. has no choice but to come to terms if she is to respect her own national interests.

So on the one side we have war advocates attacking the book because the minimalism of their populist message is threatened by the political complexity described in Parsi’s writing, and on the other side we have anti-war advocates attempting to discredit the information and analysis contained in the book out of concern that it could muddy the anti-war narrative, making it less convincing in elite policy circles. To rhetorically undermine Parsi’s discourse, the Leveretts label the book as “an agenda driven analysis” and Ahmari says, “Mr. Parsi is far from disinterested in the ultimate outcome of the engagement debate.”

So does A Single Roll of the Dice go beyond an exposition of the author’s research valuable to policy making to actually promote a specific course of action? Like other reviewers I too am tempted to attribute a purpose to the writing. What Single Roll seems to advocate is this: the U.S. should not go to war with Iran, but should rather pursue a multi-issue line of negotiation -- alongside the nuclear agenda -- that encourages the aspirations of Iranians seeking more freedom. The Leveretts view this as an implicit call to U.S. interference in domestic Iranian affairs, possibly signaling an intent to overthrow the regime by force. This is why they assault Parsi’s analysis. The neo-conservatives (correctly in my opinion) view it as a path to a strong and friendly Iran that can become a rival to Israel as a reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East. They malign the book because this policy could bring about an ebbing of Israeli influence in the Middle East.

However, regardless of any motives on the author’s part, the book’s call for including the human rights topic in negotiations with Iran is sound policy thinking. Parsi prominently cites the tunnel vision focus on the single nuclear issue as one of the reasons for the failure of diplomacy with Iran. This is because the Iranian protest movement, which started after Obama’s outreach, has radically altered the U.S.-Iran dynamics, needing completely new policy drafts. Any approach recommended prior to June 13 2009, the day of the first Iranian election protest, is obsolete. A Single Roll of the Dice understands and fully appreciates the significance of Iran’s domestic opposition. The book’s shortcoming is that its scope does not cover specific guidance in building negotiation strategies around this new reality. I was going to give it 3 stars on Amazon, but will add a fourth “bias” star because I have hopes for the Iranian opposition.


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Some replies

by Ari Siletz on

Bavafa: As you point out, T-shirts are important because they start conversations that otherwise wouldn't happen if folks didn't know your affiliation. Fred was kind enough to note that readers need this reminder. Sadly proper disclosure is out of fashion in elite editorial circles such as the Wall Street Journal. A misleading pretense to disclosure is more in vogue. For example, in the WSJ review of the book by Sohrab Ahmari the editors make no mention of the reviewers affiliation with neo-con William Kristol. Instead, Ahmari is introduced as a member of the Henry Jackson Society which does non-partisan research on democracy and promotes full employment. If there was a chapter in Single Roll about employment policies, Dr. Parsi's editors must have deleted it after the galleys were distributed to reviewers.

Abarmard: I understand your doubts about some analysis. Complicated situations are by nature easier to be wrong about, which is probably why you take the time and trouble to stay informed.

MM: What?! No T-shirt for you either? Not to impose on a busy schedule but NIAC should show more concern about the appearence of its members. I want to see designer NIAC dresses at the Oscars.

Faramarz: If you're worried about looking the fool, then politics may not be for you. Some people risk their lives standing up for what they believe. It is a small sacrifice to risk an "I told you so."


Ari, Don’t Tell Me that it is so!

by Faramarz on

Are you a NIACie? Seriously! A dues-paying NIACie?

I am so disappointed!

But you are so smart! You speak in full sentences and use multi-syllable words.

You don’t copy and paste and call everyone that disagrees with you an MEK/AIPAC/NeoCon/Likudie!

But I understand. As a man I have made a few mistakes in my life too and have fallen for the wrong persons and have learned to regret it. But as they say, you will regret the things that you haven’t done not the things that you have done.

So as the spring comes and goes and there is no Israeli attack on Iran, and the summer comes and goes and there is no US attack on Iran, and when the fall comes and the Iranians get rid of the Regime, you will be welcomed back to the fold.

We Iranians are a hospitable people!



by MM on

Wait a minute, no T-shirt for me either?

I do not write as elegently as Ari, but I do read other reviews and here are two more recent reviews besides Ari's: A bungled chance at talks with Iran 'without precondition' from www.philly.com (Philadelphia Enquirer) and Cloud computing from www.economist.com (Economist's second review of TP's book).


Good review of the book

by Abarmard on

Thanks. The book clearly talks about missed opportunities from both ends and that they are not accidental. Ideologically, Iran is incapable of establishing normal relations with the US.

The US also is not capable of initiating a dialogue. It's a dangerous situation that can very easily lead to war.

Similar scenario in policies could be Cuba. However with Cuba there is no chance of an arm conflict but with Iran the issue goes into strategic political landscape, where Saudi and Israel see Iranian influence as a challenge against their power in the region. Iran also views them similarly.

The issue gets even more complicated with Syria and Egypt. According to a recent interview by Iranian media, the retired "Hezbollah" and ME specialist, Egypt is the key for Syrian uprising. Iran believes that Egypt will become its natural ally and to have a balance in the region, Syria needs to switch places.

I am not yet sure about the validity of this analysis but it is an interesting point to consider.

If 2012 passes without a war then we should be safe for a long time otherwise most analysts believe some sort of bombing against Iran will take place.


Air jaan: I am with you on that…

by Bavafa on

If it wasn’t for the potential benefit in engaging in curious type conversation and/or spreading the word, I would have gladly preferred them to spent the $$$ that would have gone to T-shirts on more important issues/items.


Anytime infomercial specialists are prodded to do the ethical thing and disclose their affiliation with the product they are pushing, a public service has been accomplished


Sadly, we can’t say that about some other members on IC.  I suppose, those who are NOT ashamed of their affiliations they disclose it publicly but cannot say the same for those who carry on with their infomercial with their two-blog-a-day yet feel ashamed of disclosing their affiliation.



'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory 


Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

I hear you man! Thanks for thinking about joining the T-shirt protest. I'd even accept a rise in membership fees to cover the cost.



by Fred on

Anytime infomercial specialists are prodded to do the ethical thing and disclose their affiliation with the product they are pushing, a public service has been accomplished.

Goldfishes whose family members overseas in ponds controlled by fat toe people are in dire danger of being crushed because of their advocacy for regime change, hence the need to stay anonymous.

Thankfully, the infomercial specialists rooting for one faction of the fat toe people need not to worry about this thing.

Lastly, being a goldfish ain’t that bad at all, it is actually a privilege, they have the honor of enjoying the Iranian New Year with almost every Iranian family.

Now, if the infomercial specialists get their product manufacturer to answer the outstanding inconvenient questions, then they've done a public service too.


Only a decent person will reciprocate in kind, so Fred….

by Bavafa on

Are you going to disclose your affiliations?  Show us your decency.

  As a full disclosure, I have been a member of NIAC for a couple of years now but I never got any T-shirts or any other gift.  I ought to protest about this.


'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory 


Ari Siletz

Full disclosure, Fred

by Ari Siletz on

The writer is an NIAC member in good standing when he remembers to pay his dues ($50), otherwise he gets annoying emails reminding him about it.

He got a black NIAC T-shirt when he signed up a few years ago which is now frayed around the collar, and the writer wants to know why he doesn't get a new T-shirt whenever he renews his membership. He can't wear the old T-shirt to parties and events any more, as it's only good for community volunteer work where physical labor is involved.

Further, he takes this opportunity to invite other NIAC members to join him in this T-shirt protest. As they are often independent-minded and respected organizers and promoters of community action in their localities, I don't understand why it's such a big deal to direct some of that political energy towards their sartorial needs. 

The writer has another T-shirt (red) with the "Iranian" written on it in Farsi letters. He doesn't remember where he got it, but fortunately this shirt is still in good enough shape to wear to bars, sports events, and local community gatherings so that curious Americans can ask about it and learn that the writer is Iranian.The writer further discloses that having invited face-to-face interactions with uninhibted crowds of Americans about his being Iranian, the bite of anonymous internet commenters feels like goldfish nibbling on his toes. Tickles!




To be "qualified" or not

by Fred on

As much as the infomercial specialists have the qualification to write up a “review” without disclosing their affiliation, anyone else who has reviewed the court documented record of the NIAC lobby, is qualified to question the lobby’s motives and associations with unsavory characters.


What an "antellectual patsy" is

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

They are Patsys, because they are used to rebel & overthrow a king, pursuing ideals such as human rights and opposing dictatorship, without their plannners, having any intention of helping them realize their goal, just to agitate them so they can make use them.  What makes one an Antellectual?  Antellectuals lack the
capability to think for themsleves, without the media doing the thinking for them, they are the ones that are guilty of
pursuing an imaginary dictator & person that condones and wide spread uses torture.  In short a person that can be deceived intellectually, they can't figure out on their own the person is not a dictator and does not condone torture if the media doesn't tell them.   Shah's overthrown was in part rooted in his health, which was not part of the wherewithal of "antellectual patsies" but was part of the wherewithal of those organzing his overthrow.   The wherewithall to overthrow him was also was in the hands of those with access to controlling western media as a propaganda tool to help manufacturing antellectuals thoughts.  We see this Media at work in a predictable way against libya and now syria.  Not fair and balanced, but misinforming to the max. The unity of the west against iran was where the power lay, they used Antellectual Patsies, to betray day in and day out "both king and country," despite the peace, progress and human rights improvements that were amazing in human history by the shahs team.  Being a Peaceful Leader he stepped out to minimize the harm planned for his people.  They are "antellectual patsies" because they are used by others and work against reason.  By themselves Antelllectual patsys never had the wherewithal to overthrow the Shah, its why they can't overthrow the mullahs today.  1979 and the victory of anti secular forces has proven the for the mst esteemed thinkers the exact opposite of your advice, that more political freedom was not something Iranians were capable of managing during the cold war and the neocolonialist era.

The crown is only as good as the loyalty of the people. 

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

If "antellectual patsies" had the wherewithal to overthrow the Shah, he would have been well advised to compromise with them on the political freedoms they were demanding. Perhaps the Shah lacked the proper cynicism to realize that the crown is only as good as the "antellectual patsies" that support it.


Ari, The opportunity was crystal clear in the 1970's

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

And today its even clearer than back then, secular monarchy.  You misused cynicism with reality, like some people like to misuse proven facts with blame, this approach is unhelpful to all.  The opportunity for peace, progress and human rights in Iran was clearly with a secular monarchy like the pahlavi's gave us, especially the late one based on his record.  Now Due to Ignorance compounded with Manipulation and finally compounded with Betrayal, we lost all these and also lack freedom, so its crucial at this moment to defend and restore the character of those that had their reputations tarnished by lies.  How many people do you see doing it? Are you aware that you and bahmani are a like in that neither of you are among those that are defending the character of those who were lied about or created exceptional value starting from only their own character and little else? Since human rights is being played with or without it every being legitimately pursued your idea makes little sense, unless they are doing it within the context of being a True Human Rights Activist and supporter of Freedom For Iranians by presenting the truth and standing on the side of the truth.  This is easy to do and can be done peacefully by promoting the life and works of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi the late King of Iran.  The "antellectual patsy" human rights advocates helped bring Khomeini to power and helped betray the late shah, and today I don't see them openly defending the character or innocence of the late shah or members of the government in the 1970's, regarding charges of dictatorship or wise spread torture.  You must see as clear as the light of day, if people are not sincere to start with, then these manipulated sell outs are hardly going to come across an opportunity after all the harm they have done so far, other than the opportunity for someone to deceive them as per usual. 

Ari Siletz

Bahmani, Amirparviz

by Ari Siletz on

Bahmani: I'm not qualified to diagnose bipolar disorder. In ordinary interactions with Dr. Parsi I sense a normal temperament. For example, in the process of writing this article, I contacted him with some questions to clarify points about his book and he seemed open to criticism, with a healthy inclination to debate the points he disagreed with. One point that I could debate with you regarding NIAC is that the main obstacle in the way of greater success for NIAC is the mindset of the Iranian community, and not so much the easily correctible missed turns that Dr. Parsi may have taken.

Amirparviz: Human rights progress has historically caught its rides on the back of interest driven issues. As a couple of examples one can cite the rise of labor union power in capitalist systems while there was competition from Communism, and Black civil righs advances because the U.S. realized a racist nation cannot have global respect. Of course there's always a need for people and institutions to advocate human rights, but it is only at critical moments in "interest politics" that these voices are found useful and progress is made. Realizing this, some "antellectual patsy" human rights advocates are more cynical than even you--except their informed and action-orieneted cynicism lends itself to strategizing and knowing where the opportunities are. 



Ari, Human Rights and Democracy is just PR to fool patsys

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

If that is the only point one can come up with in support of his work, then really the book is going to be a dissappointment.  The USA & allies disingenuously preach human rights and democracy though they are all complicit in mass torture, when they are not busy torturing people, they are busy supporting and protecting certain groups of extremist torturers, who wish for religion to be in government.  Just look at how profitable the clash of civilizations business is for the USA and her allies, on a whim, at a time of her choosing, she can push the military manufacturing button, take Syria, where the USA is supporting tens of thousands of non syrian extremists in jordon and turkey, all the money is being pulled out of the pocket of the sunni saudi's, kuwaiti's, qattari and any sunni dictatorship that has oil money, in order to increase their influence and control over mostly sunni syria.  Whether they win or lose is not an issue, weapons sales, paid for by sunni's in the hope of increasing their influence is profitable for the USA regardless of whether the US's extremist side wins.  And this is presented as the pursuit of freedom and democracy.  In Libya mass tortures have not stopped since NATO knocked out the govt and supported extremists there.  Whether trita mentions the human rights/democracy card is irrelevant, that manipulation is the very foundation of US policy, the opposite is the true aims as any child can see.   The human rights of Iranians is the victim of the US creation and support for extremists in Iran. You got dunces who after 33 years on this site that can't figure out the late shah was not a dictator, nor did savak use torture as part of its procedure/nor was it wide spread.  So instead of praising the Shah for improving human rights of iranians our 4 legged professors here use time, fox, cnn and every other US outlet to help them "think", & we are suprised at the number of Antellectuals we have.  With Democrats and Human Rights supporters like this, Iran is screwed with or without Trita.


Trita's Book is as Bi-Polar as He is.

by bahmani on

Thanks for a well balanced review of the book. I had the same reaction. Clearly as much of the Kool-Aid as you and I have drunk, we're still not convinced.

I used to care about it, but after trying to help and getting no where I gave up. Now I call it what it is, a sad case of manic depressive disorder manifested into an organization and one tiny body. One day high, one day low. Really high, to really low.

The primary reason for Trita's loyal friends and staunch foes is entirely his own doing. He's been counseled by the best not to do it, yet continues. Just like and as if he refuses to take his Prozac or eat more Saffron.

You cannot defend and attack at the same time. That's just plain crazy. Or the kind of behavior that defines bi-polar.

The real elephant in the room though, that even you have not spoken about but must be thinking, is that the cruise ship TRITANIAC has no rudder, no captain, no course, no destination, and thankfully few passengers. As a result, when it eventually sinks everyone will go, "Good" and move on. The only question is when.

Because neither is NIAC or Trita an Iranian government lobby, nor is it an Iran-American community advocate. Because if it is, it is certainly a most inept one.

No, NIAC and Trita are nothing more than just your average 3-man Iranian idea/startup/website that "wants to be".

You know, just like I "want to be" the captain of Iran's national soccer team.

Actually I would rather be captain of Esteghlal.

Because in America, Iranians apparently think that they can actually be whatever they want to be, as opposed to what they are cut out for.

Iranians in America have taken the "American Dream" seriously, and don't seem to get that like everything in the US, it is merely the tag line of a massive advertising campaign.

Because like any oppressed and damaged people, Iranians always believe in and trust the word of "government". No matter how many times it lets them down.

Trita is a late night kitchen gadget infomercial. "Trita-matic". A product that sounds mildly good, but turns out it doesn't work as advertised. Worse, Trita-matic solves a problem that no one has. Which is why few want, and fewer buy it.

To read more bahmani posts visit: //brucebahmani.blogspot.com/

Mohammad Ala

What gives...?

by Mohammad Ala on

Ari jan; thanks for your time and contributions.

I also agree with Bavafa.  Competition should be welcomed and it will be great for a person or people who post on daily basis two blogs, to compare AIPAC with NIAC.  As Fred keeps saying… what gives?  For example, how many people work in each organization, where they obtain their budget, etc.  It will be nice if someone like Fred or AI can enlighten IC members.

The ideas in the book are nothing new that we have not read or heard from Dr. Trita Parsi (if one follows his write-ups).  The single problem that I have seen from both sides is that “interest groups” rule both countries.  Speaking as an Iranian, unless we place our national interest(s) ahead of our personal interest(s), we will have conflicts (as one can observe here at IC).  The change may not happen in my life time (again judging from IC members as a sample and the Iranians who I deal with on daily basis). 

Ari Siletz

Iran's contribution to the problem

by Ari Siletz on

Single Roll points out that the  rivalry between factions inside Iran is one obstacle in the rapproachment process, because each side sabotages the rival's efforts so as to deny their domestic opponent credit for success.  Both Iranian and U.S. domestic politics (as well as other factors) contribute to the problem. Single Roll is very clear on this point. Anyone who claims that the book puts all the reasons for  failure on the U.S. shoulder, has not read the whole  book, and therefore not qualified to comment on it. 


Trita Parsi is not an idiot

by robertborden54 on

I think both sides of the argument underestimate Parsi.  He is not an idiot.  But his analysis is quite uncontroversial. He essentially says that Obama was unable to carry out his plan becasue of a number of constituencies that he had to deal with.  First of all, Obama as candidate said many things about many subjects.  When he came to powere He, like many presidents before him, realized implementing policy in the real world is much more difficult.  Secondly, welcome to politics! Ofcourse Obama had to balanace many demands from many constituencies. 

At the heart of Parsi's problem is his naked ambition.   He really really wants to be important.  that's why he uses a very simple thesis to spin a yarn with the overall effect that: 1. A better way is possible only if all these nuisances (Israel, Sunni Arabs, Republicans, etc.) got out of the way; 2. The IRI is able to meaningfully compromise.  The problem is (1) is just not realistic and (2) has proven to be a deadend.  The IRI does retreat  but it does not compromise based on negotiations.  The first has a far less stable quality.

As far as parsi's new-found concern for human rights is concerned, he still seems to be hoping that the reformist wing of the IRI will come back to power.  The human rights argument at this moment  benefits the Mousavi-Karroubi leadership of a new nicer, gentler IRI.  In that situation NIACwill probably be more comfortable acting as a defacto IRI lobby, making Parsi ever more relevant.  

On the other hand he may be just an objective academic observer (insert you favorite emoticon here).   


Competition is not welcomed....

by Bavafa on

True to form, the representative of AIPAC on IC never fails to attack anything NIAC related, most often the first to respond. 

Regarding the review however, I found it great and informative.   Just last week, I picked up a copy of this book and look forward to reading it.    


Thanks for the review.


'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory 



True to form

by Fred on

True to form, the NIAC Lobby and its propaganda continue to dismiss all as not getting it and only the lifetime president of the lobby knowing the complexity of it all.

In the process, keeping to old habits and procedure, instead of responding to questions about its documented relationship with various high officials of the Islamist Rapist Republic (IRR), the questioners are branded as “war advocates”

What the NIAC lobby and its conjoined twin, the CASMII lobby have failed to show is why the failure of their policy of making nice, “Grand Bargain”,  with the Islamist Rapists was the fault of the west, which offered IRR all the opportunities, and still fail to blame the Islamist Rapists.

A notice about the affiliation of the reviewer with the NIAC Lobby would have been the right thing to do as well.