Aaron David Miller – Envoy to Iran

Millermedium I have been listening to this gent for a while now.  I met hin several times when times were good.  He was Ross' deputy for a long time but he seems to know whom he is, and that is a grown up, non-tribal American.  I heard him say tonight that the US should not be dragged around by tiny interests and that a Syria/Israel treaty should be at the top of the agenda. 

God Bless You, Sir.  How difficult it must that have been to come to as a position!

You have my support to be US envoy to Iran.  pl

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Aaron David Miller – Envoy to Iran

  1. Jackie Shaw says:

    By “tiny interests”, I hope he is talking about the Israelis and the Cuban exiles in Miami. I read a book a few years ago by Clyde Prestowitz on trade and he was very critical of the enormous amount of pressure these two tiny interests exert on our policy in the world.

  2. Jose says:

    Thank you, Bibi!

  3. Halfnhalf says:

    Are you sure it’s David Aaron; elsewhere it’s Aaron David.

  4. Halfnhalf says:

    Saw Mr. Miller last night on the Lehrer newshour, and he came across as a thoughtful, slow-to-speak, quick-to-think individual.
    The question is: will his religion be a problem for the Iranians?

  5. R Whitman says:

    Very impressive on PBS last night. Makes too much sense in a non-ideological, realistic way. I hope he and his attitude are players in the US policy arena in the Middle East.
    Pat, who else supports him besides you and me?

  6. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    E Plurisbus Unum trumps ethnic nationalism.
    Miller’s stance reminds me of the spirit underlying Moses Jacob Ezekiel’s great monument to religious freedom in Philly — a monument worth venerating, in my opinion, as it represents the best of our civic tradition.
    And according to Wiki, both Miller and his wife are active in Seeds of Peace, so neither he nor his wife are grappling with the inherent racism that infects post modern Zionism. Such racism is worrisome, I must say, because this is the first time in history that ethnic nationalists have the bomb. Ya’ think?
    Wonder if the orthodox Jewish rabbis and our American brothers from Williamsburg, Brooklyn — the Satmar crowd — would give Miller a thumbs up too. Probably so.
    Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Williamsburg, VA. Good combination. Best way to prevent ethnic nationalists from venerating the bomb as it represents the best of their civic tradition.

  7. Green Zone Cafe says:

    I met him several times when times were good.
    I don’t know, he looks young enough and times have been bad for so long I thought you must have spoken to his high school class.
    Are we going to move back into our old embassy?

  8. batondor says:

    I agree wholeheartedly, Pat. I also saw this discussion last night on The NewsHour and had precisely the same reaction without the advantage of personal experience.
    On the other hand, I cannot help but wonder whether so many “chiefs” and too few “indians” (as in Mitchell, Holbrooke, and Miller… not to mention Biden and Clinton) will make this a very top-heavy bunch…
    Without weighing the individual egos at work (or your personal impressions of them as ‘human beings’ or as ‘experts’… because my views are mixed at best), I’d be interested to hear your view of the difference (as in pros and cons) between as coterie of advisors this highly experienced as compared with a team of ‘new faces’ being guided with a strong central hand and vision…

  9. mo says:

    Interestingly I read a report about some secret dinner Obama had before becoming President (Secret Dinner) which talked about a Wilson Center and found this interview with Mr Miller.
    My intital thoughts (contraty to what I had read about him) was no matter what his bias and politics are he is not remotely reticent about the truth – a rarity in this debate. His own man it seems.
    I believe that I second that endorsement if he stays this faithful to himself and his country.

  10. Matthew says:

    Col: I too got to meet Mr. Miller and his wife last year. He is a huge improvement over Dennis Ross. He’s a Zionist (isn’t everyone in the US Establishment?), but he’s not a Kool-Aid drinking Zionist. He particularly disagrees with the Ross Heresy, i.e., preclearing all US position with Isarel before offering them to the Palestinians.
    Good luck to him. And a good sign for the USA.

  11. DaveGood says:

    Aaron David Miller sounds a nice chap, no-one appears to have a bad word to say about him, however…..
    Is it wise to send a Jew to Iran as the representative of America?
    Where I an Iranian Militant of limited intellect but immense fervor, I would regard that as exactly the sort of insult Bush~Cheney expected me to swallow.

  12. DaveGood says:

    Forget “wise”… is it even sensible?

  13. Cloned Poster says:

    Click approval
    Yet beneath their unyielding rhetoric lie ironic parallels. Neither side has any interest in talking to the other, and neither at this point believes in a comprehensive settlement.

  14. DaveGood says:

    Oh great…..
    now someone, posting on this thread, who’s met him describes him as a Zionist!
    Let me ask a straight forward question…
    How much does the USA now pay out every month to watch and monitor Iran?
    If it came to less then a 200 million every month I’d be surprised, since it’s at, or near, the top of a “Watch list” overseen by intelligence agencies that spend tens of billions per year.
    What’s your main priority? Replacing “Hostile relationship” to something more like “nuetral” and trending towards the “Friendly”” as fast as possible?
    Then why appoint a Zionist Jew to be the first American Iran’s leaders will be asked to shake hands with?
    Meanwhile, around 300,000 American veterans are homeless.
    I have no doubt that all of them of them can think of better ways for America’s money to be spent.

  15. DaveGood says:

    My apologies…
    The latest figure I have for American homeless American Veterans is 200,000. The 300,000 figure is those Americans now back from the Bush-Cheney, West Asian Wars with serious, long term injuries.
    I apologise for the confusion.

  16. Matthew says:

    DaveGood: I don’t consider it is a plus for an American official to describe himself as a “Zionist.” But it just happens to be the dominant belief system in our country. That’s reality.
    Mr. Miller is a good American public servant who understands that American foreign policy is not a zero-sum game between Israel and the Arab states/Iran. He has stated quite eloquently that America should have a special relationship–but not an exclusive relationship–with Israel. Well, I couldn’t care less about Israel, but this is a much wiser position than most American foreign policy experts usually espouse.
    Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And Mr. Miller is infinitely better suited than Dennis Ross for this position.

  17. Byron Raum says:

    I don’t really see a problem with sending a Jew over to deal with the Iranians – they are going to have to deal with reality. As a nation, we don’t subscribe to any of the racist ideals that are somewhat more prevalent in that area. In fact, I would rather applaud it as a clever move because it allows the idiots to self-select themselves out – we can really only make progress with people who are moderate enough to want to talk to him. Now, if there are not enough people out there who would be willing to talk to him, then the mission would be doomed anyway.

  18. robt willmann says:

    I am hoping against hope that the Colonel’s optimistic thoughts about Aaron David Miller as a special envoy to Iran turn out to be correct.
    Mr. Miller, however, wrote an article posted on the Internet website of the Harvard International Review (summer 2008) which creates a red warning flag that the harmful rhetoric and covert operations against Iran may not “change” much, if at all.
    Mr. Miller describes five sources of Israeli influence on U.S. Mideast policy, calling them “lawyers”, as in sources of advocacy–
    “The case for Israel is made by five predominant “lawyers”: first, a well-organized, affluent, and powerful community of 5.3 million American Jews, most unaffiliated and uninvolved, but a sizable minority for whom Israel is a non-negotiable issue; second, AIPAC, a powerful lobby which defines what it means to be pro-Israeli in Congress and defines the risks of departing from the consensus; third, millions of evangelical Christians who for reasons of eschatology and shared values are stunningly pro-Israeli; fourth, al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and non-Arab Iran, whose extremism generates sympathy and support for Israel; and fifth, the impact of Israeli prime ministers on the worldview of American presidents, which was most evident by Ehud Barak’s relationship with Bill Clinton and its disastrous diplomatic impact during the final years of the Clinton administration.”
    The venomous description of Iran, Mr. Miller’s new focus, is startling: “al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and non-Arab Iran, whose extremism generates sympathy and support for Israel ….” He lumps Iran in with al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah, then gives special emphasis to the “extremism” of non-Arab Iran, which, he claims, “generates sympathy and support for Israel”. Mr. Miller could more precisely have said that the propaganda regarding Iran disseminated by broadcast and print media in the United States can generate sympathy and support for Israel. The only thing he got right in that little phrase was that Iranians are not Arab, though he fails to tell us their known historical name — Persians — perhaps because it would evoke a somewhat positive image of an old, established culture with a rich heritage of art and commerce.
    I wonder what Ali Larijani, Iran’s former nuclear negotiator and current Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, thinks about Mr. Miller’s squirt of belligerent language?
    Mr. Larijani apparently graduated from college with degrees in mathematics and computer science and obtained a PhD degree in philosophy. I read most of the documents filed with the International Atomic Energy Agency during the Bush jr. administration’s attempt to sucker Iran into a confrontation over its nuclear program under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. I have to say that all of Mr. Larijani’s filings were legally correct and right on point.
    Rumor has it that Mr. Larijani might run against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this year for president of Iran. I hope he does and that he wins, even though he is a supporter of the “clerical system” in Iran. Mr. Larijani is an obviously composed, intelligent, careful, and sophisticated man.
    If Ali Larijani becomes Iran’s president, full diplomatic relations with the United States can and should become a reality. The only entity that would try to block the reinstatement of diplomatic relations would be … well, you take a guess.
    Mr. Miller’s Wikipedia entry states that he worked for the U.S. State Department from 1978 to 2003, and from 1988-2003 he was an advisor regarding Arab-Israeli negotiations. It would be interesting to know what his advice was during those not-so-fruitful years in the Middle East.
    And what will be the position of Aaron David Miller regarding Iran, including establishing full diplomatic relations with that country, in light of his article cited above and its declaration that the U.S. should maintain a “special” but “not exclusive” relationship with Israel?
    What is his “advice” going to be to President Obama?
    We should listen carefully to what Mr. Miller and President Obama say about Iran, and watch just as carefully what they do.
    We can be sure that Ali Larijani is going to.

  19. LeaNder says:

    I am neither impressed by his selection nor by his statements at the Woodrow Wilson Center
    That’s basically the Israeli perspective, pseudo-balanced, carefully keeping all main Israeli talking points and adding a breeze of realism in the end: Hamas will not go away.
    Q: Is there a chance Hamas could become a moderate political faction?
    Miller: The chances that this confrontation would lead to moderating Hamas’s views of Israel are slim to none. A whole mythology and national narrative are being created in the streets of Gaza. A good part of it will propel anger, bitterness, and rage toward Israel and the United States for a good while to come.

    Isn’t the far more powerful national myth the Israeli myth of the land of my fathers? It’s almost an insult to talk about the Palestinian mythological national narrative. But one gets used to mirrors in this fratricide. Why not simply call it “rights” based on international law?
    Somebody I trust deeply, and who is an expert on the issue, used rather harsh words concerning Aaron David in an interview. Since I perceived it as a signal, I learned that he found many mistakes in Miller’s published narrative of his 20 year experience in the so-called peace process. But Miller, the politician, after a while wasn’t so interested in having more and more mistakes pointed out, so he ended the email exchange.
    I am assuming Ross was too controversial after the bragging internal WINEP memo about his prospective status as Middle East super envoy circled the net. No doubt Miller will be just as loyal as Ross. He even learned that the mythical narratives of power trump reality. He may turn out as Ross’ double. After all the Arabs, and obviously the Persians too only understand power.
    …Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  20. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Is any of this relevant?
    Isn’t it much much more important what Mr. Miller’s marching orders could be?
    Mr. Obama has, so far, failed to articulate any concrete positions in foreign polciy; be that Russia, China, Iran, Mexico, EU, etc.
    There is nothing on the table – where is the beef?

  21. Patrick Lang says:

    I am NOT being ironic. It is true that I am sometimes ironic. This is not one of those times. I think ADM is a good American, a smart man and a humane man.
    The United States is a country that favors the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Most Americans support that policy.
    Therefore, the best that can be done is to find a Zioniat who will try to do what is best for all concerned and not just for Israel.
    I think Miller would do that. Obama is not going to appoint Zbig and Scowcroft, so let us look for someone whom he might appoint. pl

  22. Ingolf says:

    I read that brief Q & A quite differently, LeaNder.
    In the excerpt you chose, he’s surely simply stating the obvious; namely, that the war in Gaza can only serve to harden anti-Israeli and anti-US attitudes.
    This view (hardly what I’d call pro-Israeli) is reinforced by his answer to the last question:
    “Q: What are the prospects for moderates to assume control of Gaza?
    Miller: Regardless of how this ends, no Palestinian who has not suffered through and been a part of this confrontation with Israel will have legitimacy in Gaza. The notion of importing a Palestinian Authority-West Bank leadership is an illusion. Only those Palestinians who have borne or suffered the brunt of this confrontation will have the legitimacy to govern.”
    I also rather liked his answer to the question of whether the media is being fair:
    “The “truth” is never served up on a silver platter. Understanding this conflict fairly requires digesting many different sources, points of view, and information. Even then, it’s tough to get it right. No single media source is reliable for understanding the full dimensions of this conflict.”
    Robert, I wonder if you may not also have misinterpreted his intent. In enumerating the five “lawyers”, he isn’t expressing an opinion on any of them, simply noting that they are the primary drivers of opinion within the American political context.
    Read in this way, I think his comment on Iran is no more than a statement of fact. The perceived extremism (eg some of Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric) does serve as an effective advocate for Israel.
    Later in that piece, he writes:
    “Maintaining Israel’s trust and confidence is vital to our success in Arab-Israeli negotiations. It is quite another matter, however, not to expect reciprocity, not to speak out and impose costs when Israel pursues policies harmful to our interests, such as settlements and land confiscation, or to allow Israeli prime ministers like Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon to determine US tactics and strategy on Arab-Israeli diplomacy.”
    “The real question, however, is whether presidents are prepared to lead in the service of national interest. When they do, domestic lobbies, albeit noisily, almost always follow. One can only hope the next president will understand that.”
    It seems to me this is about as far as someone who wishes to remain and work within the US foreign policy establishment can go in voicing reservations.

  23. LeaNder says:

    I am NOT being ironic.
    Maybe you are right, better somebody connected with an umbilical cord to the land of his fathers than no envoy at all and only divestment, pressure on business that deals with Iran, and sanctions.
    A tiny light on the horizon?
    Maybe there will be an agreement, maybe some people can keep their jobs, maybe unlike Iraq there won’t be millions of dead children? Although from an certain perspective Iran surely looks like an ethnographic bomb too, unlike Europe. 😉

  24. Highlander says:

    Regarding your “I am not being ironic” comment. If you consider Mr Miller as the best thant can be expected from the new administration, what or who would you consider to be the optimal.

  25. DaveGood says:

    I have one question I’d like an answer too.
    The United States of America has never insisted to any Government in the Middle East ( Far as can tell) that it accepts a Zionist Jew as America’s official representative.
    Not even in the case of Israel ( No Jew has ever been appointed as the US Ambassador to Israel).
    Why is Iran being singled out for treatment it’s obvious it will reject?
    Either Aaron David Miller has been singled out for failure by those hostile to his aims and hopes.
    Or he is co-operating in an effort to bring down any chance of a peaceable Iran-US understanding.

  26. Patrick Lang says:

    You are mistaken. There have been any number of people appointed to be the official representatives of the United States to various Muslim countries and entities who could only be described as Zionist Jews. Someone will give you a list. pl

  27. eakens says:

    Are you sure you want to send the villain from No Country For Old Men on a diplomatic mission to Iran?

  28. eakens says:

    DaveGood, Marc Grossman was the US Ambassador to Turkey under Clinton.
    I believe Morocco was another country which had a Jewish ambassador at some point.

  29. batondor says:

    For what it’s worth, here is a list of Jewish-Americans who served as United States Ambassador to Israel:
    Samuel W. Lewis Foreign Service Officer 1977-05-25 1985-05-31
    William C. Harrop Foreign Service Officer 1991-01-21 1993-05-07
    Martin S. Indyk Non-career appointee 1995-04-10 1997-09-27
    Martin S. Indyk Non-career appointee 2000-01-25 2001-07-13
    Daniel C. Kurtzer Foreign Service Officer 2001-07-18 2005-07-17
    It’s more meaningful, if I may, to ask why the question of whether the aforementioned individuals are Zionists would be any different than whether an Iranian-born US ambassador to Teheran had a personal belief in the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic…
    … and the only important question, of course, is whether said individual would represent and defend the interests of the United States professionally and independently of personal motivations (and perhaps even in contradiction with them, if necessary… and when possible, where in the absence of such adaptability an honorable resignation would follow naturally).
    In fact, the only question that remains and that applies to us all is whether someone can be a Zionist (though that can mean many things all by itself) while also endorsing the legitimate claims of the Palestinian people…
    … though the answer to that question is far easier to formulate than is a resolution to the conundrum reflected by an honest consideration of the conflicting implications of either premise both internally and relative to each other.

  30. DaveGood says:

    So far I have found only two occasions where the USA decided to appoint a Jew as it’s representative to a Middle East Muslim country, both Clinton appointments, one to Egypt, the second to Morocco.
    If the purpose of sending an Envoy to Iran is to bring about a lowering of tension between America and Iran….
    Then this “effort” will fail before it gets off the blocks.
    Whatever Aaron David Miller’s merits….
    Hardliners in Tehran will have no difficulty at all selling the idea that America sends a Zionist Jew as it’s mouthpiece is a direct intentional insult.
    The people who selected Aaron David Miller know this.

  31. DaveGood says:

    Thanks Eakens and Batondor.
    I was not aware that for the last 40 years till the present day ( With some interruptions) America’s relationship with Israel was steered by appointees who were Jews.
    ever heard the term “Gone Native”?

  32. DaveGood says:

    Over here in the UK we had a superb drama-comedy serial, written by people on the inside, that examined the Culture of Governmental Bureaucracy.
    It was called “Yes Minister”… later series were called “Yes Prime Minister”… If you get the chance watch them, not just for the pleasure, but also for the insights.
    The last paragraph of your post is a prime example of a “Sir Humphrey” moment.
    A portentous statement with no discernible meaning or content.

  33. J says:

    I was soooo relieved that the kerfuffle Ross didn’t get the position. [Sigh of relief]

  34. Keith says:

    A few of these have already been mentioned but here are a few more 20th Century Jewish-American Ambasadors:
    Martin Indyk
    Daniel Kurtzer
    Daniel Kurtzer
    Frank G. Wisner
    Simon Wolf
    Matthew Takash
    Ottoman Empire
    Henry Morgenthau Sr.
    Abram Elkus
    Oscar Strauss
    Eric Edelman
    Marc Grossman
    Laurence Steinhardt
    Marc Charles Ginsburg
    Edward Hurwitz
    Sengal & Mauritania
    Philip Kaiser
    David Satterfield
    I guess there are technically more Christians than Muslims in Lebanon, I don’t know if Mr. Satterfield’s name belongs on the list of ‘ambasadors to Muslim countries’.

  35. Patrick Lang says:

    So far as I know, he hss not been appointed to anything, but, I disagree with you in your opinion that his appointment would necessarily be seen as an insult in Tehran. They are smarter than that.
    I don’t think that Satterfield is Jewish, but Feltmann or Feldman the recent ambassador in Lebanon certainly is. pl

  36. mo says:

    Christians make about 30% of Lebanon’s population.

  37. batondor says:

    Pat, I won’t take credit for the exhaustive and illuminating list offered by Keith – I frankly didn’t have the energy or curiosity to look that deeply into it…
    … but I think the implications of potentially insulting a foreign power with a provocative appointment are obvious:
    1) as far as I know, they are not obliged to accept the credentials of a new ambassador, so if truly insulted they can act accordingly…
    2) sending an extremist ideologue or transparent provocateur would surely be a basis for your critique, but that does not seem to be the case here at all and it would apply in general and to both parties…
    3) nor should a country send someone who would not be received automatically as a friend of the nation to which he or she was posted…
    At the end of the day, I guess DaveGood would suggest that only people who reject the legitimacy of Zionism in any form would be qualified to represent the US in Iran… or perhaps in the entire the Middle East…

  38. batondor says:

    One last point, Pat: you’re correct to indicate that Miller is not being postulated for the post of ambassador but rather as ‘special envoy’ and so maybe the notion of ‘credentials’ is not in play… but then again, we don’t have full diplomatic relations with Iran at this time, so I suppose the contrast is not meaningful…

  39. curious says:

    Interesting developments.
    What’s Schroeder doing in Tehran? This is a surprise. (Germany-Iran economic tie defrosting? Bush really killed german economy 2 yrs ago asking for dropping Iran export.)
    Reporting from Washington — Veteran Mideast peace negotiator Dennis B. Ross, who was widely expected to be named special envoy to Iran, has been given a less ambitious mission as the Obama administration continues to weigh how best to deal with the Islamic Republic.
    President Obama named prominent negotiators to represent the administration in the Middle East and South Asia, and Ross was expected to be given a corresponding assignment for Iran.
    Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is under fire for meeting Iran’s president but his visit to Tehran may help Western nations in their efforts to negotiate with Iran on its nuclear programme.

  40. curious says:

    ark your calendar, the show plot has been written.
    In his lecture last week to senior IDF officers, Barak sketched the outlines of the Israeli approach in the coming months. Israel hopes that potential U.S.-Iranian talks will be relatively short-term, and harbors few illusions about a positive outcome.
    When and if talks fail, Israel would expect the U.S. to head an international move for immediate and harsher sanctions, this time effectively involving Russia, China and India. The assumption is that Obama will find it easier than Bush to urge the world to pressure Iran, especially after he shows he has taken dialogue as far as it can go.
    Israel would prefer for the Americans to condition their talks with Iran on freezing uranium enrichment during the talks.
    The oversight system now allows reasonable follow-up on whether Tehran is meeting this condition. In the 15 years of Tehran’s contacts with the international community, it has proven itself a master of deception and delay and Israel is concerned that the Iranians will use the dialogue as a feint, while steadily moving closer to a bomb.

Comments are closed.