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Iran Attack: National Journal #Fail

January 18, 2012

UPDATE: Deazen has made significant corrections to the article. It still implies, I think, more than is warranted, but the egregious misrepresentations in his article are gone.

SECOND UPDATE: In case anybody thought that this was anything other than a National Journal fail, it it turns out that Matt himself was instrumental in getting Deazen to correct the story.

Yochi J. Deazen of the National Journal details a high-level fight in the Administration about whether or not to attack Iran. His evidence? The juxtaposition of Matt Kroenig’s and Colin Kahl’s pieces in Foreign Affairs

Now, however, competing essays by Matthew Kroenig and Colin Kahl, who just stepped down as the Pentagon’s top two Mideast policy officials, are offering an unusual look inside the White House deliberations about how far to go to stop Iran.

With American-Iranian tensions rising by the day, the essays in Foreign Affairs—one making the case for striking Iran and one making the case against—illustrate why the U.S. and its allies are having such a difficult time deciding how to respond to Iran’s ongoing progress toward building a nuclear bomb. The White House declined comment on the essays.

Kroenig, one of the protagonists in the debate, left the Pentagon last summer after serving as a special adviser on Iran policy to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The title of his essay, “Time to Attack Iran,” leaves no doubt about his thinking.

For reasons that I detailed in my earlier post, this is bull$h*t.

Matt was not a “special advisor to Robert Gates.” He describes himself as having been a “special adviser in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.” He was engaged in advisory activities in International Security Affairs-Middle East, a division within OSD(P).

But Deazen’s description is ludicrous. As an IPA in ISA-ME, Matt was beneath (at least) a Director and a Principal Director, although I’m sure he had direct access to his DASD, Colin Kahl. Next in the chain of command was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDASD), followed by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for ISA, then the Undersecretary…. you get the picture.

To be blunt, The piece still implies that Matt was an administration official and that he “stepped down” from his position. In reality, his one-year fellowship ran out.  [T]o the extent that their is a constituency favoring military action against Iran, Matt’s views are his own—they say nothing about the state of play in the Obama Administration.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.