If you think you and your wife have been unfairly tainted as the leading academic apologists for the Iranian regime in the United States, you probably don’t want to close an event for your new book by recounting a fond memory from one of your multiple encounters with the leader of an Iranian-funded Palestinian terror group.
“I remember the very first time we met Khaled Mashal, the head of Hamas,” Flynt Leverett said at the end of an event for he and his wife’s new book, “Going to Tehran,” at the Center for the National Interest in Washington Thursday.
“And he said to us that he and his colleagues pray everyday that they can see facts as they are. And I always thought that is the ultimate realists’ prayer: God give me the strength to see facts as they are.”
Flynt and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett, both worked as staff on the National Security Council during the administration of George W. Bush, and both left Team Bush after they became increasingly concerned with its Middle East policy, though other accounts suggest that Flynt did not leave on his own accord.
Since leaving the Bush administration, the two academics — Hillary now teaches at American University and Flynt at Penn State — have become prominent defenders of Iran’s Islamic Republic. They contend that if the United States treated Iran differently, Iran would be open to a rapprochement.
“It is up to us to show that we are serious, and then if we are serious, they will be open to us,” Flynt explained.
According to Hillary, the two main arguments of their new book are that “the United States is a power in relative decline in the Middle East” and that “the biggest beneficiary of America’s ongoing decline in the Middle East is the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Their solution, which Flynt repeated incessantly at the forum, is for President Obama to go to Iran like Nixon to China — a historical parallel that is probably as overused in Washington as calling something a “Munich moment” or a military action “another Vietnam” — and accept the Islamic Republic as it is.
The two like to call themselves realists, but their rhetoric suggest they are less realists and more advocates for the Iranian regime. It’s not like they have reluctantly come to the conclusion that it is in the best interest of the United States to deal with Iran no matter how unpalatable the regime’s human rights record is. Quite the opposite. They can hardly bring themselves to say anything bad about the theocracy, which has an abysmal human rights record, appears to be attempting to build a nuclear weapon, has threatened the U.S. and Israel, funds terror groups around the world and is responsible for the deaths of American troops in Iraq.