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Sunday, September 16, 2012

U.S. adapt, deal honestly with empowered Muslim societies? ─ Leveretts

Anti-American protest
People and politicians of the United States, their foreign relations leadership, attitude, credibility amid shifts, risings in Middle East, South Central Asia, Africa East and North — Appraisal and commentary by 
Middle East expert 
Hillary Mann Leverett
Excerpt, minor editing by Carolyn Bennett

Delusional insularity

In the heat of anti-American demonstrations sweeping lands west and east of the Red Sea, north and south of the Gulf of Aden ─ protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo [Egypt], protests at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Sana’a [Yemen], Khartoum [The Sudan], and across the region; myriad manifestations of resentment against the United States in much of the Arab and Muslim worlds — most Americans don’t want to understand.

“The critical issue is the deep-seated resentment that people have for U.S. policy throughout the region,” Hillary Mann Leverett said last week.

“Hatred and resentment for U.S. policy are the heart of the problem.  Communities throughout the Middle East are angry.”

Delusions of grandeur

Nevertheless,  the people and politicians in United States are reluctant to grapple with Middle Eastern reality and are clearly resistant to change. “There is a fundamental flaw in U.S. strategic policy,” Hillary Mann Leverett says,  “and it has to do with empire

“We look at each country, at each place, and we see the expatriates that we want to see in the cafés of Paris. They parrot our line about secular liberalism; and we arm, fund, and train them to go back and, in effect, impose a political order on societies that have very different histories, characters, cares, and concerns…

“We listen repeatedly to those expatriates — in Iraq, Iran, Libya, everywhere. We listen to them not because we are stupid but because we have a very determined focus for dominance.…”

And in a political season” ─ despite raging events sweeping the Middle East over the past few days ─ “American elites seem [disinclined] toward soul-searching about their country’s foreign policy.”

Anti-American protest

 Loss of credibility

Promises 2009 made at Istanbul, Turkey, and Cairo and the campaign pledge “not just to end the Iraq war but also to end the ‘mindset’ that had gotten the United States into that strategically and morally failed project [went unfulfilled].” 

The new administration “‘walked back completely’ from those commitments.”

In this political season, the unasked question is why the dishonesty in policies; and, in light of this, how can people of the Middle East take seriously the word the United States of America “as a constructive force.” Until Americans and the politicians can address this question, they will never understand the reasons underlying “Middle Easterners’ anger.

Anti-American protest
Middle East change changes relations
U.S. policies, practices must change

Americans “have not begun to grapple with the enormity of the challenge… as countries [in the Middle East] become more politically participatory, and people have a voice.”

Thinking that the United States has “cards” with which it can leverage key local actors is fantasy. The first trips of the new president of Egypt, for example, were not to the United States but to China and Iran.

“The train has left the station in these countries,” Hillary Mann Leverett concludes. “Unless [Washington] figures out how to adapt,” the strategic position of the United States ─ in the Middle East and hence throughout the world ─ “will continue to erode.”

Sources and notes

“Protests in the Muslim world: can the United States deal effectively—and honestly—with politically empowered Muslim societies? Posted on September 15, 2012,  Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, http://www.raceforiran.com/

Hillary Mann Leverett

Hillary Mann Leverett has more than 20 years’ 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 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.

She has provided expert testimony to the U.S. House Government Reform and Oversight Committee and 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 various news and public affairs programs and was featured in the BBC documentary “Iran and the West.” Along with Flynt Leverett, Hillary Mann Leverett appeared in the PBS Frontline documentary “Showdown with Iran.” Also with Flynt Leverett, she co-authored Going to Tehran:  Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic (published in 2012). Hillary Mann Leverett – Biography, http://www.raceforiran.com/authors/hillary-mann-leverett-biography

Flynt Leverett

A professor at Pennsylvania State University’s School of International Affairs, director of the Iran Project at the New America Foundation, a Visiting Scholar at Peking University’s School of International Studies, Flynt 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 career with 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.” He 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; and has been a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University.

Flynt 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.”

With Hillary Mann Leverett, he is coauthored Going to Tehran:  Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic (published in 2012).

Flynt Leverett biography, http://www.raceforiran.com/authors/flynt-leverett-biography

Flynt Leverett participated in the September 15, 2012, Al Jazeera-English “Inside Story Americas” discussion “What is really behind these protests?” Also in this discussion with presenter Shihab Rattansi were Michelle Dunn, a former U.S. State Department official; and Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University and the author of Islam and the Arab Awakening, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestoryamericas/2012/09/201291565916989823.html


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