Ask The Leveretts Anything: How Should Obama Deal With Iran?


During the Iranian uprising of 2009, the Dish continuously clashed with Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, the most well-known skeptics of the Green Movement. The husband and wife team continue to blog at Going to Tehran, in addition to Flynt’s role as Penn State Professor of International Affairs and Hillary’s role as Professorial Lecturer at American University and CEO of the political risk consultancy, Stratega. In 2011, they argued “there has been no Nixon to China moment under Obama.” Watch their previous videos hereherehere and here. A reader dissents to the series:

As a long-time follower of The Dish – it was instrumental to me as I was launching EA WorldView (then Enduring America) in 2008 and especially during the post-election crisis in Iran in 2009 – I have been unsettled by the platform you have given the Leveretts to push their book and their portrayal of life in Iran. While I fully agree that a well-rounded view of Iran and of US-Iran relations is essential to avoid military conflict and to find a way out of the punishing economic warfare, the Leveretts do not serve this purpose for me. Instead, they are pro-regime polemicists putting forth under-informed, rose-coloured caricatures of the leadership and the internal situation.

I would have responded directly on The Dish if it had a Disqus facility. I did try to respond on Going to Tehran, but the Leveretts have blocked any substantial questioning of their comments. For what it’s worth, this was my reaction:

A post reinforcing the hope that Going to Tehran will focus solely on the US approach to Iran and not venture any “analysis” on the Islamic Republic’s “internal dynamics” … .

A few questions to cut through the superficial reply and condescension about “how Americans been conditioned”:

1. While the introduction to how the system works in principle is useful, can the Leveretts explain – beyond an elegy of “populist” Ahmadinejad – how the current government established legitimacy in 2009? There’s nothing here in this answer.

2. If Ahmadinejad is the triumphant “populist”, with overwhelming public support, can the Leveretts explain the hostility of most elements of the regime – including, at times, the Supreme Leader’s office – towards him?

3. If the Ahmadinejad economic legacy is so successful, can the Leveretts explain why he was only able to pass one stage of his subsidy reforms, and then after great delay? Can they explain why the second stage has been blocked by Parliament and is unlikely to see the light of day?

4. Can the Leveretts explain a current inflation rate which, by official figures, is almost 30% and – according to some MPs and Iranian economists – between 40 and 60%? Can they explain the 40% drop in oil exports? The 70% drop in the value of the currency? The rise in unemployment, especially among those under 30?

I am even more distressed by the elegy given by the Leveretts in the second video. While recognising the advances of women in the Islamic Republic, any observer should also note the limitations on women’s rights – for example, the recent legislation further restricting women’s right to travel outside Iran and their “family rights” – and the detentions of women such as attorney Nasrine Sotoudeh and student activist Bahareh Hedayat, thrown in prison for daring to represent clients and for calling for political reform.

By the way, very best wishes on your Big Adventure with the new site – I am rooting for you.

Another also takes issue with the second video about women in Iran:

First off, all the educational programs put in place for women were put in place during the Shah. If the Mullahs had their way, women would not have be permitted to receive a higher education (as women even today are not allowed to major in certain fields that are deemed inappropriate for them). And watching and listening to the rant of the Leveretts, one would blindly think they were talking about a utopia in which the rights of women were equal and actually embraced. Oh yes, a regime in which women are worth ½ of men in court “embraces” women’s rights. A regime that has stoned women to death. A regime that has raped young girls before their executions so that they don’t “die as virgins” as “virgins go straight to heaven”. Such a “utopia” that women have had under the Islamic Republic.

It is a shame that such drivel is espoused by so-called “intellectuals”. A true travesty. The Leveretts are not only the greatest apologists for a tyrannical and oppressive regime, they consistently host Islamic Republic regime agents on their site such as Mohammad Mirandi. In addition, they travel to Iran on behalf of the regime. Not to mention that they have openly admitted members of the Basiji and Revolutionary Guards on their “blog”. Anyhow, I just wanted to voice my displeasure in hearing their rant on your page. We have freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but I found this to be uncharacteristic of you to give a voice to two people who bank on a totalitarian regime through sheer utter lies and Islamic Republic apologia.


I was born and raised in Iran. I’ve been watching the few videos you put up of these IRI sympathizers, and I’m trying to keep a level head, but it’s hard to watch. You can’t just put lopsided opinions up without balancing them. Iran also stones women to death. Although the majority of students in Iran are females (which started in the ’80s because a lot of young men were at war), their salaries, authority, and positions come nowhere near men’s. Women have no right to divorce. Women have very limited rights. Really, can you balance the gibberish? It’s hard to watch.