Gregory Hicks testifies before House
Gregory Hicks, foreign service officer and former deputy chief of mission/charge d’affairs in Libya  testified that Thomas Pickering never interviewed him. (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering personifies the State Department mentality that so many conservatives find objectionable. He authored a Global Zero report arguing for unilateral disarmament and then runs to his co-author Chuck Hagel’s defense, saying it doesn’t say what it plainly does. He gets selected for a critical State Department review of Benghazi, doesn’t interview the secretary or high-level advisers, and writes a report identifying no one in particular. He famously replied that it was fine to leave out higher-ups because “because in fact we knew where the responsibility rested.”

In a milieu where double-talk, evasion and protecting the powerful are rewarded there is no one better.

Now we hear this from the Jerusalem Post’s David Weinberg:

Pickering and his senior “Iran Project” colleagues want President Obama to altogether drop sanctions and covert action against Iran. They assert that sanctions are only “contributing to an increase in repression and corruption within Iran,” and alas “may be sowing the seeds of long-term alienation between the Iranian people and the United States.”

Pickering’s call for U.S. capitulation to Iran is now being echoed across the Washington wag world. Numerous think tanks are seeding the American diplomatic and political discourse with similar messages, and paving the way for a climb-down from Obama’s declared policy of preventing (and not merely containing) Iran’s obtainment of a nuclear weapon.

This week, the Center for a New American Security, a think tank closely affiliated with the Obama administration, made it clear which way the Washington winds are blowing. Its study, “If All Else Fails: The Challenges of Containing a Nuclear-Armed Iran,” was primarily authored by former Obama administration deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East Colin H. Kahl. He outlines “a comprehensive framework to manage and mitigate the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran.” In other words, stopping the Iranian nuclear effort is already a passé discussion.

Last month, an Atlantic Council task force (which Chuck Hagel co-chaired until he was appointed secretary of defense), similarly released a report that called for Washington to “lessen the chances for war through reinvigorated diplomacy that offers Iran a realistic and face-saving way out of the nuclear standoff.” That’s diplomatic-speak for a containment strategy.

To top it all off, the Defense Department-allied Rand Corporation concluded this week that a nuclear-armed Iran would not pose a fundamental threat to the United States and its regional allies. In “Iran After the Bomb: How Would a Nuclear-Armed Tehran Behave?” Rand’s experts assert that the acquisition by Tehran of nuclear weapons would above all be intended to deter an attack by hostile powers, presumably including Israel and the United States rather than for aggressive purposes. “An Iran with nukes will still be a declining power,” they say. “Iran does not have territorial ambitions and does not seek to invade, conquer, or occupy other nations.”

Is he a stalking horse for the administration and a sign we’re about to see a major flip-flop from deterrence to containment?

Pickering has left the State Department, but as we saw in the Accountability Review Board investigation, he’s a trusted ally of the Foggy Bottom set, knowing just how to handle unpleasantries like the death of four Americans, including an ambassador.

Pickering is being called back to provide further information on his report. While he is there, the lawmakers might want to ask him if he’s simpatico with the administration on Iran, if containment has been the plan (or backup plan) all along, and whether he is also advising the administration on how to capitulate to Iran.

 UPDATE: I am reminded that he also met with Hamas.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.