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Published On: Wed, Jul 22nd, 2015

How Much of a Game Changer is the Iran Nuclear Deal? Flynt Leverett and Seyed Mohammad Marandi on RT’s CrossTalk

TND Guest Contributors:  Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett |

The University of Tehran’s Seyed Mohammad Marandi, on RT’s CrossTalk—click on the above video or see here and (YouTube) here—made an important point not widely recognized in American discussions of the Iran nuclear deal:  For the Islamic Republic, the main payoff from the nuclear deal was not, first and foremost, sanctions relief.  Rather,

“For Iran, what was important was to have a peaceful nuclear program.  So, the notion that Iran’s path towards a nuclear weapons is blocked is fine for Iranians because it’s not what they were doing in the first place.  The biggest gain for Iran here was the fact that its peaceful nuclear program, and the fuel cycle, was recognized

This vindicates Iran’s policy over the past decade.  After 2003-2005, when Iran basically gave up everything and the United States failed to come to any sort of reasonable agreement with Iran, Iran felt it had no option but to push forward heavily to advance its peaceful nuclear program.  And that’s what gave Iran the bargaining chips that was able to use, during the recent negotiations that ended a few days ago, to get what it wanted

Despite the difficulties and despite the hardship [Iranians] went through because of the sanctions,the biggest victory is that [Iran] basically forced the United States to the negotiating table.  And it has forced the United States to annul the UN Security Council resolutions—and none of those resolutions has ever been applied in Iran.  In other words, the demand was that Iran end its enrichment of uranium, and Iran never did so.”

While, as Mohammad points out, this is “a major shift in American foreign policy,” it is not clear how much of a strategic game-changer that shift will prove to be.  On this point, Flynt notes

“As someone who, along with my wife, has for years been arguing, inside the U.S. government and since we left the U.S. government, that the United States, for its own interests, needs to realign fundamentally its relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran, what happened in Vienna is obviously a very, very positive step.  But it is just a step.  And it begs the question of whether the United States can—as we outline in our book, Going to Tehran—really make the kind of commitment to a comprehensive revision of U.S. relations with Iran, somewhat analogous to the way that Richard Nixon recast America’s China policy in the early 1970s.

That’s the kind of real strategic revision that is critical to halt the accelerating deterioration in the U.S. position in the Middle East—and, on a less nationalistic basis, to put the Middle East itself on a more positive trajectory, with serious conflict resolution in various regional venues.  That’s the key challenge for the United States right now: can it really build on this opening that the nuclear agreement represents?  I think the nuclear agreement is fine, in and of itself, but the real strategic payoffs, the real benefits from this will only come if the United States can take these bigger steps as the nuclear agreement is implemented.”

The discussion is worth watching in its entirety.
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Click here to learn about “Going to Tehran,” co-authored by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett.  This article originally appeared at the “Going to Tehran” website and is reprinted with permission.

About the authors:

flynt_leverettFlynt Leverett is a professor at Pennsylvania State University’s School of International Affairs and is a Visiting Scholar at Peking University’s School of International Studies.

Dr. Leverett is a leading authority on the Middle East and Persian Gulf, U.S. foreign policy, and global energy affairs. From 1992 to 2003, he had a distinguished career in the U.S. government, serving as Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council, on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, and as a CIA Senior Analyst. He left the George W. Bush Administration and government service in 2003 because of disagreements about Middle East policy and the conduct of the war on terror.

Dr. Leverett has written extensively on the politics, international relations, and political economy of the Middle East and Persian Gulf. In a series of monographs, articles, and opinion pieces (many co-authored with Hillary Mann Leverett), he has challenged Western conventional wisdom on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policy and internal politics, documented the historical record of previous Iranian cooperation with the United States, and presented the seminal argument in American foreign policy circles for a U.S.-Iranian “grand bargain”. His new book is Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic(also co-authored with Hillary Mann Leverett).

Dr. Leverett has published opinion pieces in many high-profile venues, including The New York Times, POLITICO, and CNN, and contributes frequently to Foreign Policy. He has been interviewed about Iran and its geopolitics on leading public affairs programs around the world, includingCharlie Rose, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Empire and Riz Khan (Al Jazeera English), Viewpoint(Abu Dhabi Television), Spotlight (Russia Today) and Washington Journal (C-Span), as well as in leading publications such as Der Spiegel and Le Monde. Along with Hillary Mann Leverett, he was featured in the PBS Frontline documentary, “Showdown With Iran”, and profiled in Esquiremagazine.

Dr. Leverett has spoken about U.S.-Iranian relations at foreign ministries and strategic research centers in Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. He has been a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University.

Dr. Leverett holds a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University and is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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hillary-mann-leverettHillary Mann Leverett is a Senior Professorial Lecturer at the American University in Washington, DC and a Visiting Scholar at Peking University in Beijing, China. She has also taught at Yale University, where she was a Senior Lecturer and inaugural Senior Research Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. She is also CEO of Strategic Energy and Global Analysis (STRATEGA), a political risk consultancy. Her new book is Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic (co-authored with Flynt Leverett).

Mrs. Leverett has more than 20 years of academic, legal, business, diplomatic, and policy experience working on Middle Eastern issues. In the George W. Bush Administration, she worked as Director for Iran, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council, Middle East expert on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, and Political Advisor for Middle East, Central Asian and African issues at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. From 2001-2003, she was one of a small number of U.S. diplomats authorized to negotiate with the Iranians over Afghanistan, al-Qa’ida and Iraq. In the Clinton Administration, Leverett also served as Political Advisor for Middle East, Central Asian and African issues for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Associate Director for Near Eastern Affairs at the National Security Council, and Special Assistant to the Ambassador at the U.S. embassy in Cairo. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and a Watson Fellowship, and in 1990-1991 worked in the U.S. embassies in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and Israel, and was part of the team that reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait after the first Gulf War.

Ms. Leverett has published extensively on Iran as well as on other Middle Eastern, Central and South Asian, and Russian issues. She has spoken about U.S.-Iranian relations at Harvard, MIT, the National Defense University, NYU, the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs, and major research centers in China. She has appeared on news and public affairs programs on BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and Al Jazeera (Arabic and English), and was featured in the highly acclaimed BBC documentary, Iran and the West. She appeared in the PBS Frontline documentary, “Showdown With Iran”, and was profiled in Esquire magazine. Her articles, often co-written with Flynt Leverett, have appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, Politico, the Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs, the Washington Monthly, and The International Spectator. She has provided expert testimony to the U.S. House Government Reform and Oversight Committee.

Mrs. Leverett holds a Juris Doctor from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts in Near Eastern Studies from Brandeis University.

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