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Our Man Flynt By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, December 25, 2006


Former CIA and National Security Council staffer Flynt Leverett is on the loose, and the Bushies had better watch out. He is armed and loaded for bear, even if he can only manage a pea-shooter.

Leverett, who left the NSC in 2003 to work for the presidential campaign of Monsieur Jean-Francois Kerry, believes the Bush White House is full of Evil Creatures such as Elliot Abrams, who “don’t take the Constitution seriously.”

 

Now the Evil Ones are preventing Our Man Flynt from publishing an op-ed in the New York Times, because it calls on the administration to drop its opposition to talks with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

“The administration has threatened me with criminal prosecution,” Leverett whined to an audience of MSM lefties in Washington on Monday, “to prevent the dissemination of the view of someone who is very critical of their approach to Iran policy.”

 

I suppose Flynt didn’t have time to read the Baker-Hamilton report, which makes the same (mistaken) recommendation that the U.S. negotiate with Iran. If the administration were truly interested in silencing its critics, it would have to shut down the entire U.S. media establishment.

 

The Washington Posties took Flynt’s childish rant seriously, and ran a puff piece the next day. Reporter Glenn Kessler took pains to repeat Leverett’s unverifiable claim that he “voted for George W. Bush in 2000,” to suggest that he was a real live administration dissident. But Kessler neglected to mention that Leverett more recently worked for the Kerry campaign. Minor detail.


Leverett’s tirade was hosted by urbane Bush-basher Steven Clemons at the New America Foundation. In his blog, Clemons hyped Leverett and made available a longer version of his censored anti-Bush screed, which Leverett claims was passed by the CIA’s pre-publication review board without a single cut. The Agency has since said that was an oversight, and that Leverett’s published article contained classified material and should not have been approved.

 

The CIA’s position is interesting, because if Leverett has been spilling classified information – and Leverett has helpfully identified those areas the Agency cut from his NY Times op-ed – then the CIA ought to be abolished for incompetence, because most of the “information” is false.

 

Leverett’s main claim is that dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran works, and that the Bush administration’s refusal to talk to the Tehran regime today “is the strategic equivalent of medical malpractice.”

 

He bases that extravagant (and demonstrably false) claim on two cases where he says dialogue brought tangible results.

 

During the months following the 9/11 attacks, Iran joined the “6+2” talks on Afghanistan that ultimately led up to the Bonn conference and the creation of a post-Taliban government. Leverett claims that the Bush administration “used the cover of the “6+2” process to stand up what was effectively a freestanding bilateral channel with Iran, with regular (for the most part, monthly) meetings between U.S. and Iranian diplomats.”

 

While meetings did indeed take place in Geneva between U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Iranian government officials, it is simply false to assert that these meetings “provided significant and tangible benefits for the American position during the early stages of the war on terror,” as Leverett claims.

 

Instead, those meetings allowed the Iranians to gauge U.S. intentions in Afghanistan and the level of U.S. anger over Iran’s evacuation of al Qaeda operatives from Bin Laden training camps. And they gauged – correctly – that the U.S. was too preoccupied with securing Kabul and plugging the Pakistani border with Afghanistan to do much about Iranian shenanigans on the other side of the country.

 

As I and others have reported, Iran set up a “rat line” in Western Afghanistan in October 2001, with convoys of Toyotas carrying top al Qaeda officials and their families who were fleeing Afghanistan for Iran. Some of the al Qaeda terror-masters were flown out on Iranian Army helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, according to U.S. intelligence reports at the time.

 

But if you believe Leverett, Iran gave the United States “crucial diplomatic cooperation,” because they could have actively attacked U.S. troops during Operation enduring Freedom, “either by Afghan proxies or by Iranian intelligence and paramilitary assets.”

 

Frankly, I would have preferred we skipped the jaw-jaw and go directly to war-war. Had we hit Iranian Revolutionary Guards units hard in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 as they were evacuating the eldest son of Osama Bin Laden, or al Qaeda military chief Saef al-Adil, we might not be facing the Iranians (or al Qaeda) today in Iraq. But Our Man Flynt believes we should have bowed down and thanked the Iranians for not killing more of us.

 

The second example Leverett uses involves an Iranian “overture” to the United States in early 2003. According to Leverett, this was Iran’s offer of a “grand bargain” with the United States that would have resolved all outstanding differences between the two countries.

 

With Iran, any discussion must be “all or nothing,” Leverett said this week, and must include U.S. “security guarantees” not to use force to overthrow the regime.

 

“If the US had taken the Iranian offer to negotiate in 2003 when Iran was not spinning centrifuges, was not enriching uranium… the world would be looking better,” he said.

 

But of course, the Evil Ones in the White House turned down the Iranian offer, which according to Our Man Flynt was made in good faith out of a desire by Iran’s clerical leaders to put aside their terrorist ways.

 

Sometimes when Leverett mentions the 2003 Iranian overture, he adds a telling detail: that he himself was involved in those talks, and personally met with a top Iranian official on the sidelines of an international conference in Athens.

 

I wrote about Leverett’s encounter with a senior Iranian official at the time. The meeting was intended to be a “discrete back-channel discussion… intended as a forum to allow for quiet communication between the two governments without rhetoric or politics.”

 

But thanks to Leverett, it turned into a public relations fiasco. While Leverett claimed that he told the Iranian he was no longer working at the White House (he had recently resigned from the Bush White House and was preparing to join the Kerry campaign), the official’s translator spooked and reported the meeting back to Tehran, where it was promptly shut down.

 

The CIA must be relieved that Our Man Flynt is no longer on the roles. While his policy recommendations are just as insane as those proposed by the Baker-Hamilton duo, his adolescent pomposity shows him off for what he really is.

 

A loser.

 

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Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).


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