Neocon think-tank hosts Iran destabilization confab

Veteran journalist Jim Lobe reports on his LobeLog blog that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a neo-conservative group created two days after 9-11, is holding what it calls “a policy workshop” during Congress’ Memorial Day recess, at a luxury resort on Grand Bahama Island. Entitled “Confronting the Iranian Threat: the Way Forward,” the confab is to include “30 or so leading experts who will analyze the implications of Iran’s activities, the diplomatic challenges, military and intelligence capabilities, the spread of its ideology within and beyond its borders, and other issues, including the prospects for democratization in the Islamic world, energy security and other related issues that face policymakers in the United States, Europe and the Middle East,” according to the invitation letter from FDD’s president, Clifford May. The purpose will be “exploring policy options…and [to] consider solutions to one of the most significant policy issues of our day.” Writes Lobe:

Among those experts who have been invited are several serving and former senior administration officials, including one of the diminishing number of neo-cons left in the Bush administration, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Paula Dobriansky; the hard-line Iran country director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and Office of Special Plans (OSP) alumna, Ladan Archin; the recently-departed State Department Coordinator of Counterterrorism, Amb. Henry Crumpton; the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Treasury Department, Matthew Levitt, who is now with the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). The administration’s new UN Ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, has also been invited, although his duties as next month’s Security Council president may make it difficult for him to travel. In any case, his spouse, Cheryl Benard, who directs the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy, is confirmed.

Uri Lubrani, the chief Iran advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is also expected to participate.

Bernard Lewis, the Princeton emeritus professor who just received the American Enterprise Institute’s annual award, presumably for having done so much to lay the intellectual foundation for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the subsequent transformation of the Islamic world, is expected to open the proceedings by addressing Iran’s historic, as well as contemporary, ambitions in the region. Rob Sobhani, a Georgetown University adjunct professor and president of Caspian Energy Consulting, who helped found, along with Michael Ledeen and several other AEI fellows, the Coalition for Democracy in Iran in 2002, has also been invited, as has one of Lewis’ most devoted protégés, AEI fellow and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative, Reuel Marc Gerecht.

No word on whether Elizabeth Cheney has been invited. But, as Lobe notes, the neocons have mostly been purged from the administration at this point. The recent wooing of Iraq’s Shi’ite leadership away from Iran’s orbit is a victory for the “pragmatists” who now have the upper hand, and lessens the imperial imperative for aggression against Iran. The neocons, with their hubristic visions to remake the Middle East, are probably mere voices in the wilderness at this point. The real danger for progressives is that, having been focused on the necons as the source of all evil for so long, we have let our guard down about the threat of the “pragmatists”—who, as we have noted, seek stability under compliant and authoritarian regimes.

See our last posts on Iran and the pragmatists, and the neocons.

  1. How interesting…
    One of the participants in this charming fete is Reuel Marc Gerecht, an extremoid wonk and Shah-nostalgist—who also has an op-ed in the May 24 New York Times argueing that Tehran’s arrest of that Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari proves that Iran’s “clerical regime today is no more interested in reaching a peaceful modus vivendi with the United States than it was in the 1990s, when President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright all but begged President Mohammad Khatami of Iran to just talk to them.”

    These extremoids aren’t going to give up easily, that’s for sure—and it seems the suicidal Tehran regime can’t resist giving them propaganda ammo on a silver platter.

  2. Cheney versus Bush?
    OK, this is now a blog quoting a blog quoting a blog, but… From Raw Story, May 24:

    Report: Cheney aide clearing path to bomb Iran
    A report published today reveals a growing game of tug-of-war between President Bush and his No. 2 regarding the US approach towards Iran.

    Vice President Dick Cheney believes the US should not be pursuing a diplomatic path with Iran, and a senior aide to the vice president has been meeting with national security think tanks and consultants in Washington to “help establish the policy and political pathway to bombing Iran,” Steve Clemons reported Thursday on his blog, The Washington Note.

    Cheney is the person in the Bush administration who most desires a “hot conflict” with Iran and believes the administrations pursuit of diplomacy, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is a mistake, Clemons reports.

    The Cheney aide, who has met with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute along with other groups, “has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an ‘end run strategy’ around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument,” according to Clemons.

    Cheney’s team wants to work with Israel, nudging the country at some key moment to mount a small-scale attack on the suspected site of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, which could lead to an Iranian counter attack on US forces stationed in the Persian Gulf, Clemons reports.

    The vice president has in recent weeks been ramping up his rhetoric against Iran. Earlier this month, he spoke aboard a US aircraft carrier just 150 miles of Iran’s coast to warn the country against continuing to pursue a nuclear weapons program.

    Excerpts from The Washington Note:

    This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf — which just became significantly larger — as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war.

    There are many other components of the complex game plan that this Cheney official has been kicking around Washington. The official has offered this commentary to senior staff at AEI and in lunch and dinner gatherings which were to be considered strictly off-the-record, but there can be little doubt that the official actually hopes that hawkish conservatives and neoconservatives share this information and then rally to this point of view. This official is beating the brush and doing what Joshua Muravchik has previously suggested — which is to help establish the policy and political pathway to bombing Iran.

    The zinger of this information is the admission by this Cheney aide that Cheney himself is frustrated with President Bush and believes, much like Richard Perle, that Bush is making a disastrous mistake by aligning himself with the policy course that Condoleezza Rice, Bob Gates, Michael Hayden and McConnell have sculpted.

    According to this official, Cheney believes that Bush can not be counted on to make the “right decision” when it comes to dealing with Iran and thus Cheney believes that he must tie the President’s hands.

    Full article available HERE