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Iran Strategy Task Force

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In March 2011, Freedom House and the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), organizations that have been closely associated with neoconservative advocacy efforts, created the Iran Strategy Task Force in an effort to “formulate new approaches to dealing with Iran and make recommendations after meeting with key policymakers in the Obama Administration, Members and Staff in the U.S. Congress, other experts from the U.S. and abroad, and the diplomatic community.”[1]

Commenting on the task force, Politico’s Ben Smith wrote, “With democratic revolutions shaking the Middle East, a Democratic think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute, and the pro-democracy group Freedom House are launching a new task force aimed at shifting American policy on its central regional foe, Iran, toward a more aggressive focus on democracy.”[2]

Jim Arkedis of PPI wrote, “We’re calling the task force Beyond Sanction: The Next Iran Strategy, a nod to the necessity of bringing fresh ideas and new life into the debate on how to handle Tehran. As Iran defiantly continues efforts to construct a nuclear device, it has become glaringly clear in the wake of the 2009 Tehran protests in response to the country’s sham presidential elections that the regime lacks popular legitimacy. In the context of recent upheavals across North Africa and the Middle East, it’s important to remember that the pro-democracy movement began not in Tunisia, but in Iran.”[3]

Steve Clemons of the Washington Note offered a cautious response to the group’s launching, writing in his blog, “I think America's options on Iran are limited right now—and depend somewhat on how growing fissures and feuds among Iran's ruling elites evolve, but short of adding another war to America's already too full plate, I'm interested in what the Task Force comes up with. If it's a roster of a long list of other coercive measures, I'm doubtful the Task Force will move the US-Iran policy needle very much.”[4]

At its launching, task force members included a number of people closely associated with the “Israel lobby” as well as several high-profile proponents of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the Iraq. Chairing the task force were PPI’s Josh Block, a former spokesperson for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and Freedom House’s Andrew Apostolou, a former director of research at the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Other members included Jim Arkedis, PPI; Rafael Bardají, Atlantic Council; Jeffrey Herf, University of Maryland;
Ken Pollack, Saban Center for Middle East Policy; Steve Beckerman, AIPAC; Renee Redman, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center;
Ray Takeyh, Council on Foreign Relations;
Michael Adler, Woodrow Wilson Center; and Golnaz Esfandiari, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The task force also had an advisory council whose members were David J. Kramer, Freedom House; Will Marshall, PPI;
Larry Diamond, Stanford University;
Rob Satloff, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and
Walter Russell Mead, Bard College.

In an email to Politico, PPI’s Marshall said, “PPI believes a more democratic world is a safer world. The United States has failed to apply that principle to Iran, even as popular movements for freedom spread throughout the Middle East. It’s time for a new approach.”[5]

Apostolou told Smith, “The dominant issues in the Middle East are democracy and freedom. The Iran regime thinks that it can escape demands for change. The United States, and its allies, therefore need a strategy that will help Iranians attain the human rights they so richly deserve.”[6]

According to a write up of the task force in The Atlantic, “The point of the group is not to criticize the Obama administration, but to supply it with strategic options. … The administration’s initial policy was an attempt ‘to test Iran and give Iran a chance to say we are serious about talking about our nuclear regime, and I think the Iranian response was loud and clear that [Iran was] not serous,’ Apostolou said. ‘What are you supposed to do, after 30 years … the same thing?’”[7]

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Sources


[1]Freedom House, “Press Release: Freedom House and Progressive Policy Institute announce Iran Strategy Task Force,” March 30, 2011, http://freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=1377.




[2]Ben Smith, “New Iran group to press White House on democracy,” Politico, March 29, 2011, http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0311/New_Iran_group_to_press_White_House_on_democracy.html?showall#.



[3]Jim Arkedis, ,” Beyond Sanction: The Next Iran Strategy,” PPI, the Progressive Fix, March 31, 2011, http://www.progressivefix.com/beyond-sanction-the-next-iran-strategy.



[4]Steve Clemons, “Could There be a Useful Nuclear Allergy Evolving in Iran?” Washington Note, March 30, 2011, http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2011/03/could_there_be/.



[5]Ben Smith, “New Iran group to press White House on democracy,” Politico, March 29, 2011, http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0311/New_Iran_group_to_press_White_House_on_democracy.html?showall#.



[6]Ben Smith, “New Iran group to press White House on democracy,” Politico, March 29, 2011, http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0311/New_Iran_group_to_press_White_House_on_democracy.html?showall#.



[7]The Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/03/new-coalition-to-focus-on-human-rights-democracy-in-iran/73237/.



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Iran Strategy Task Force Résumé


Contact Information



Josh Block

Progressive Policy Institute

1730 Rhode Island Avenue NW Suite 308

Washington DC 20036

Tel: 202-525-3926

Fax: 202-525-3941

Email: Jblock@PPIonline.org



Task Force Members (as of March 2011)

  • Andrew Apostolou, co-chair, Freedom House

  • Joshua Block, co-chair, Progressive Policy Institute

  • Jim Arkedis, Progressive Policy Institute

  • Rafael Bardají, Atlantic Council

  • Jeffrey Herf, University of Maryland

  • Ken Pollack, Saban Center for Middle East Policy

  • Steve Beckerman, American Israel Public Affairs Committee

  • Renee Redman, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center

  • Ray Takeyh, Council on Foreign Relations

  • Michael Adler, Woodrow Wilson Center




Task Force Advisory Council (as of March 2011)

  • David J. Kramer, Freedom House

  • Will Marshall, Progressive Policy Institute

  • Larry Diamond, Stanford University

  • Rob Satloff, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

  • Walter Russell Mead, Bard College

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