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.