AEI Purge Provokes Neocon Smackdown?

By Daniel Luban

On Tuesday, Danielle Pletka and Ali Alfoneh of AEI published a New York Times op-ed claiming that the real and unnoticed story of the Iranian elections is that the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have “effected a silent coup d’etat” overthrowing the clerics. Pletka and Alfoneh (a frequent collaborator of AEI’s Michael Rubin and Frederick Kagan, who have been spearheading the think tank’s anti-Iran campaign) took a notably dim view of the protesters’ prospects, arguing that “the uprising is little more than a symbolic protest” that has been crushed by the IRGC.

But on Wednesday, Michael Ledeen lashed out at Pletka and Alfoneh, calling their op-ed “embarassingly silly”. Ledeen argues that far from being ineffectual, the protesters are actually on the verge of toppling the Islamic Republic, and that the IRGC and clerics are united against them. (This is in line with Ledeen’s longstanding view that the secular-minded and pro-American Iranian populace despises the Islamic Republic and is simply waiting for American aid to rise up and overthrow it.)

Regardless of the issues at stake, it is quite striking to see neocons go after their own in such harsh language. We suspect that Ledeen’s bellicosity may have less to do with his actual policy disagreements with Pletka and Alfoneh, and more to do with the fact that Pletka is rumored to have purged Ledeen and others from AEI last year, necessitating his move to his current perch at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

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Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



  1. This is like a couple who gets word from their mechanic that their powertrain is trashed, then them arguing about the color, or the scent of air freshener.

    They are both so far off. You haven’t posted much here on the elections, this really strikes me as another color revolution. I was out of the country when Georgia attacked the Soviets. All Western media had a noticeable patina. I wonder how many Americans know that Georgia attacked the Soviets.

    Think I’m mistaken? I saw Albright, Powell, Baker, Brezenski, Kissinger and Scowcroft all unanimously accede this fact. Yet, I haven’t really heard this correctly reported or repeated here in the USA.

    I seldom hear mention that we tried to orchestrate a coup against Venezuela’s Chavez. That we tried to murder him. So, is it so far fetched to wonder if this isn’t an Iran redux ’53? This was our CIA’s first coup, you don’t believe they’d miss this chance do you?

    We know the Bush administration allocated significant resources for this very end. has the most skeptical take I’ve seen. None of us here know squat about what’s going on there. It’s entirely conceivable that Mousavi has disproportionate support in Tehran, though Ahmendijahd seems like we would play well elsewhere.

  2. I agree with Scott…none of us here, including those who claim to know, really know what the deal was in the election or with this “popular uprising”, as it is refered to by the IPod and Tweet generation.

    Most of the bloggers,some well respected ones even, seen to have taken leave of their senses and gone gagga over being part of the “Twitter revolution”.
    We now have minute by minute tweets spread as gospel by bloggers who have no idea who the tweeter they are quoting is or how reliable he/she is.

    Personally I would like to know if there is any connection between the Rafsanjani guy who was tight with the MEK and his reputed 3 million student activist at his colleges…

    (*Rafsanjani family own vast financial empires in Iran, including foreign
    trade, vast landholdings and the largest network of private universities in
    Iran which are Known as Azad and these have 300 campuses spread all over the country. They not only have large financial resources but also an active cadre of student activists numbering around 3 million.)

    …and the protestors who are 99% young students.

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