On July 7, the Council on Foreign relation's top Iran expert Ray Takeyh testified before the "House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations" and appeared as an advocate of the Iranian green movement.
Just a few days before the hearing, Takeyh and his wife, Suzanne Maloney of Brookings institute had published a new article and lamented Ahmadinajad's demise in Tehran as "a loss to America" because he was willing to compromise with US.
In fact, the illusion of reaching a deal with Ahmadinejad, nourished and publicized by Takeyh and Maloney, was the main reason for Obama's refrain from supporting the green movement in 2009 and instead, he tried to engage the Iranian Holocaust denier President. At that time, millions were confronting the regime in the streets and the green movement was at its apogee.
In 2008 the "Brookings Institute" and the "Council on Foreign relations" asked Takehy and Maloney to author the third chapter of the book "Restoring the Balance. The chapter was titled "Pathway to Coexistence: A New U.S. Policy toward Iran". They concluded that the US should abandon pressuring Iran and instead seek friendship and coexistence with the regime because "the Iranian regime is firmly entrenched in power for the foreseeable future." The U.S. has no valid leverage against Iran and the sanctions are ineffective. The balance of power in the region has turned to the Iranian advantage and finally, the "Containment is actually obsolete because Iran is no longer an expansionist power… Its revolutionary mandates died on the battlefields of Iraq (24 years ago).
Takeyh and Maloney represent the appeasement circles that primarily combat any idea of regime change in Iran. This time around, the green movement and its conservative interpretations that try to maintains the movement in the boundaries of the regime, serves as a pretext for the appeasement lobby to publicize the idea that the solution will come from the regime's factions and as a result, reject the regime change discourse (as preached by respected experts such as Richard Haas).
Takeyh and Maloney's verbal support to the green movement can hardly mask their profound eagerness to reach a deal with whoever inside the regime, especially those who crushed the green movement. To better understand their appetite for such illusionary deal with the regime, I bring a sample of Takeyh and Maloney's writings in the past 10 years where, regardless of who was in power, they tried to present the Iranian regime as ready for a deal with US:
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.)
“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, these "experts" manage to arrive at the same conclusion. In order to convince the US administration that one of the regime's faction in Tehran is ready to reach a deal with US, Takeyh and cohorts have systematically and without any accountability have misrepresented the reality of Iranian politics and created imaginary characters. Here are some examples:
1997-2004: Reform movement is irreversible
Suzanne Maloney wrote: “For the foreseeable future, then, the Islamic Republic will continue to be buffeted by the forces of divisiveness and unresolved questions of authority. Nonetheless, the February elections provide powerful evidence that the system is evolving in an irreversibly democratic fashion”. (Maloney, S., in Middle East Policy. June 2000)
Takeyh was even more affirmative: “The next institution that is likely to fall in the hands of the reformers is the judiciary… The anticipated reform of the court system will further diminish the conservatives' power base…In the coming decade it is likely that the position of the leader will undergo transformations as its absolutism is widely challenged within both clerical and secular circles.” (Takeyh, R., in Middle East Policy Journal. November 2000)
“Despite sporadic setbacks, Khatami and his reform supporters are forging new paths and transforming politics into a meaningful representative practice ... A politicized middle class, restive youth and an emboldened civil society make the recession of conservative power inevitable.” (Takeyh, R., in Middle East Policy Journal. 11.2000 Number 4)
Takeyh, was asserting that the reform movement is the Iranian regime’s last chance of survival:
“Should the hardliners succeed in completely obstructing reform, Iran may not see a revolution similar to the 1979 mass uprising, but rather a state that increasingly resembles the Soviet Union of the 1970s.” (Takeyh, R., Iran in the Axis of Evil, in Updates from AIJAC. February 15, 2001)
“In fact, for Iran to avoid collapsing into civil strife it must adopt some basic secular tenets. Whatever direction the country takes, this much is at least evident: Khomeini failed to establish a durable Islamic polity in Iran, and the clerics are ruling on borrowed time. ( Takeyh, R., in The National Interest, AIJAC. No. 63, Spring 2001)
2004: Takeyh and cohorts masked the rise of Ahmadinejad’s faction
In 2004, Takeyh presented the "Abadgaran" as a coalition of pragmatists. This new group was in fact representing the Revolutionary Guards and Security forces and their main political figure was Ahmadinejad:
“After most reformist candidates were disqualified from the 2004 elections, it has been the pragmatic grouping Abadgaran Iran-e-Islami, that has emerged as the leading faction within the new Majlis… indicating that the pragmatists have a comfortable base within the new legislature. Moreover, a leading figure of the new Right, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rouhani, is the presumptive front-runner to succeed Khatami as president when the latter steps down in 2005... The U.S. should be prepared to take the first steps after the May 2005 Iranian election…. Rafsanjani’s cohorts would find intermediaries in either a second-term Bush administration or a Kerry administration who believe that promoting America’s interests and America’s values require engagement with Iran rather than confrontation. (Takeyh, R. and N. Gvosdev, Pragmatism in the Midst of Iranian Turmoil, in The Washington Quarterly Autumn 2004)
2005- Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy is pragmatic
After Ahmadinejad won presidential elections in Iran, once again, Takeyh and friends changed tones. Takyeh wrote an extraordinary article in which he tried to mask Ahmadinejad’s threat which was already felt around the world. He wrote in Christian Science Monitor: “Why Iran isn't a global threat”
“The days when Iran sought to undermine established authority in the name of Islamic salvation are over. Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's disciples have long abandoned the mission of exporting the revolution, supplanting it with conventional measures of the national interest... Despite the chorus of concern, Iran's new president has demonstrated no interest in substantially altering the contours of Iran's international policy - nor has the country's ultimate authority, the Supreme Leader. … But the notion that Iran's foreign policy is entering a new radical state is yet another misreading of the Islamic Republic and its many paradoxes.” (Takeyh, Why Iran isn't a global threat, in Christian science Monitor. Sep. 29th, 2005)
Then, Takeyh, one more time, changed position and found a new faction called the “Realists”. In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 19, 2006, Takeyh said:
"Realists: President Ahmadinejad’s rhetorical fulminations and presence on the international stage should not obscure the fact that he is not in complete command of Iran’s foreign relations. One of the most important actors in Iran today is the powerful Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani. As the leader of a new generation of realists that evolved in the intelligence community in the 1990s, this cohort’s has predominant influence over the direction of Iran’s international relations. Through their presence in key institutions, links with traditional clerical community and intimate ties to the Supreme Leader, the realists chart the course of Iran’s foreign policy”. (Takeyh, R., Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. September 19, 2006)
In yet another stretch of imagination, in Newsweek on Feb.26, 2007, Takeyh announced to the world that the true power holders in Iran are internationally well-behaved pragmatist nationalists:
“This emerging group looks askance at the strident rhetoric of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Its members tend to stress Iranian nationalism over Islamic identity, and pragmatism over ideology. …. Over the past two years, members of this pragmatic faction have risen to influence within the highest ranks of government, the intelligence community and the military…. these men are trying to wrest control of Iran's international relations from the most militant old-guard mullahs.” (Takeyh, R., Newsweek. Feb.26, 2007)
2008: Forget about pragmatists, engage the Supreme Leader
In an unexpected change of argument, Takeyh and Maloney rejected the whole concept of reaching to pragmatists in Tehran. Instead, they suggested that the U.S. has "misunderstood" the Iranian power structure and have been knocking on the wrong door:
"Previous attempts at engaging Iran were derailed by U.S. efforts to exploit factional divides within the regime. In the end, the historical track record makes clear that the only path toward resolving American differences with Tehran is one that deals directly with the ultimate power center—the supreme leader... Understanding that Khamenei is the appropriate starting point for any American engagement clarifies the task" (Takeyh and Malony, "Pathway to Coexistence: A New U.S. Policy toward Iran")
Three words best define the policies of the United States toward Iran in the past 32 years: naiveté, surprise and failure. Ironically however, the rest of the world has been looking to the US for guidance and leadership on how to deal with the Iranian regime.
Are the US government, think-tanks, intellectuals and policy makers so inept that they cannot even learn from their repeated mistakes? Are the Iranian ayatollahs so shrewd that they have outsmarted us constantly for more than thirty years? Truth be told, the answer to both of these questions is no.
I believe that the American government, along with the American and the Iranian people are the victims of an incessant and relentless campaign of misinformation and manipulation by special interest groups. This campaign has been so intense, focused and multifaceted, that has effectively parallelized the United State’s ability to formulate a sensible and sound policy toward Iran.
The review of Takeyh and Malony's work opens a window to this world of misinformation.