Iran Round-Up Part I

I watched New America Foundation's "Dealing with Tehran" event today and was impressed, as always, by the insight of NAF Senior Fellows Flynt Leverett and Steve Clemons.  Unfortunately, the event was overshadowed by apparent White House interference in the CIA pre-publication review process of an op-ed Leverett wrote for the New York Times.  As a former Senior Director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, Leverett submits all his writing to the CIA to make sure it does not contain classified information.  According to him, Clemons and others, the White House requested the document from the CIA and redacted large sections of already publicly known information. 

You can read much more about this unprecedented move by the Bush Administration on Steve Clemons' blog The Washington Note. Expect this to be a big story going forward, especially following Tony Snow's denial at today's White House press briefing. Attempting to muzzle a widely respected expert on Iran and the Middle East like Flynt Leverett, just because he has criticized White House policy might be the ideal frame needed to explain the lack of transparency and flawed thinking of the Bush foreign policy team.

I'll have an in-depth wrap on the "Dealing with Tehran" event tomorrow, for those of you who missed it.  In the mean-time it's well-worth watching online in its entirety. 

While this important event, and ensuing drama, was going on, there were two important stories on Iran that may have flown below the radar.  First, Iran held elections on Sunday for its Assembly of Experts, the powerful body that selects Iran's Supreme Leader.  The Washington Post said:

Allies of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad failed to dominate elections for a powerful Iranian clerical body and local councils, according to early results Sunday, in what analysts said was a setback to the hard-line leader's standing...turnout of about 60 percent and Ahmadinejad's close identification with some candidates, particularly in Tehran, suggested a voter shift toward more moderate policies and away from the president's often-confrontational positions.

These election results support Leverett's argument that Iran is not a monolithic country, and that President Ahmadinejad should not be seen as all powerful in Iran's complicated political system.

Iran also announced over the weekend that it was switching its foreign currency reserves from dollars to euros in response to US restrictions on Iran:

An Iranian spokesman said all its foreign exchange transactions would be conducted in euros and its national budget would also be calculated in euros as well as its own currency.

"There will be no reliance on dollars," said Gholam-Hussein Elham...Washington has sought to exert financial pressure on Iran, which it accuses of flouting international law by trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

This development opens up a diplomatic window for the US as we attempt to apply pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear weapons development and stop supporting terrorism.  If Iran could be forced to give up its dollar holdings, surely it could forced to give up its euro holdings as well, leaving it without a strong foreign currency to support its economy. 

Of course that would require close diplomatic cooperation with our allies, not the Bush Administration's strong suit.