CIA approved Iran report but White House blocks former official's Op-Ed based on it

Published: Sunday December 17, 2006

A former Bush official has been blocked by the White House from writing an Op-Ed for The New York Times based on a report which was already approved by the CIA.

On Friday, Flynt Leverett, a former government official who worked on President Bush's National Security Council staff and now serves as a senior fellow and Director of the Geopolitics of Energy Initiative at the New America Foundation, revealed in remarks made at a Center for American Progress panel that the Op-Ed which includes "stuff that Secretary Powell, Secretary Rice, Deputy Secretary Armitage have talked about publicly" has been blocked by the Bush Administration.

In a letter sent to The Washington Note's Steve Clemons, Leverett points out that his "op-ed is based on the longer paper I just published with The Century Foundation -- which was cleared by the CIA without modifying a single word of the draft."

"Until last week, the Publication Review Board had never sought to remove or change a single word in any of my drafts, including in all of my publications about the Bush administration's handling of Iran policy," Leverett writes. "However, last week, the White House inserted itself into the prepublication review process for an op-ed on the administration's bungling of the Iran portfolio that I had prepared for the New York Times, blocking publication of the piece on the grounds that it would reveal classified information."

"This claim is false and, I have come to believe, fabricated by White House officials to silence an established critic of the administration's foreign policy incompetence at a moment when the White House is working hard to fend off political pressure to take a different approach to Iran and the Middle East more generally," Leverett adds.

Leverett blasts the conduct of "the White House staffers who have injected themselves into this process" as "despicable and un-American in the profoundest sense of the word."

According to Leverett's sources, the staffers work for "Elliott Abrams and Meghan O'Sullivan, both politically appointed deputies to President Bush's National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley."

Here is an excerpt from Leverett's report, "Dealing with Tehran Assessing U.S. Diplomatic Options Toward Iran," as highlighted by Raw Story's managing news editor Larisa Alexandrovna at her blog, At Largely:

Unfortunately, the Bush administration is moving at a glacial pace, if at all, toward such an approach. Throughout the administration’s first term in office, the president and his senior national security and foreign policy advisers seemed collectively unable to deal with the imperatives of a comprehensive diplomatic strategy toward Iran. While there have been some tactical adjustments since the beginning of President Bush’s second term, the fundamental strategic deficit in the administration’s approach remains uncorrected.

To be sure, for a year and a half after September 11, the administration pursued a limited tactical engagement with Iran with regard to Afghanistan.

Well before President Bush took office in January 2001, the United States had joined the United Nations’ “6+2” framework for Afghanistan.21 In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration used the cover of the “6+2” process to stand up what was effectively a freestanding bilateral channel with Iran, with regular (for the most part, monthly) meetings between U.S. and Iranian diplomats.

U.S. engagement with Tehran over Afghanistan provided significant and tangible benefits for the American position during the early stages of the war on terror.

At a minimum, U.S. engagement with Tehran helped to neutralize the threat of Iranian actions on the ground, either by Afghan proxies or by Iranian intelligence and paramilitary assets, which could have made prosecution of Operation Enduring Freedom and subsequent post-conflict stabilization more difficult. More positively, engagement elicited crucial diplomatic cooperation from Iran, both during the war and afterwards. Over years, Iran had cultivated extensive relationships with key players on the Afghan political scene, including important warlords in northern and western Afghanistan.