Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy, December 19, 2006
Former CIA analyst Flynt Leverett accused the Bush administration yesterday of trying to muzzle his criticism of its Iran policy and of falsely alleging that his writings contained classified material to prevent them from being published, the Washington Post reports. Buried in the Post article are the two things that Leverett said the White House wanted to censor: his discussion of Iran's assistance in Afghanistan and his discussion of Iran's offer of a "grand bargain" with the United States in 2003.
The article is correct to say that Iran's help in Afghanistan in defeating the Taliban and its offer of a grand bargain with the US in 2003 have been "widely reported," in the sense that no-one can plausibly claim that they are sensitive government secrets that should be censored from an op-ed on the grounds of national security.
But these key facts haven't been reported as prominently as they should have been, as they are highly relevant to the question of whether the U.S. should now talk to Iran, as recommended by the Iraq Study Group. These facts strongly suggest that a sincere US effort to engage Iran could be quite helpful in minimizing any negative consequences from the inevitable withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
Much of the commentary on the Iraq Study Group has focused on the fact that it failed to call for the withdrawal of US troops. That's important, of course, but its recommendation of talking to Iran and Syria is also important. The fact that the Bush Administration is trying to bury these two key facts about Iran's past cooperation and offer of cooperation with the U.S. shows how important it is.
Of course, the basic fact about withdrawal is that it is inevitable, and so we should get it over with, rather than waste more American and Iraqi lives with delay. Since an eventual US withdrawal is inevitable, if a US withdrawal would necessarily lead to any negative consequences, those consequences are also inevitable.
However, given that a US withdrawal is inevitable, it would be irresponsible to fail to do any reasonable thing that might assist in reducing negative consequences, like talking to Iran.
The Bush Administration is desperately, ideologically, fanatically opposed to talking to Iran, although doing so is simply common sense, unless one is ideologically committed to confrontation.
Now more than ever, it is important for U.S. elected officials to hear from their constituents that the U.S. should talk to Iran.