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tv   U.S.- Iran Relations  CSPAN  September 7, 2019 10:29pm-11:39pm EDT

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announcer: what is your vision in 2020? student cam 2020 is asking students what issue do you most want to see the presidential candidates address during the campaign? student cam is c-span's video documentary competition for middle and high students, with $100,000 at stakecash prizes including a $5,000 grand prize. students are asked to produce a short video documentary, include c-span video and reflect differing points of view. you getion to help started is on our
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>> next, a national history center briefing with a political scientist and a historian who have spent their careers studying american-iranian relations. in light of current tensions between the two nations, they traced the history of u.s. policy towards iran and iran's nuclear program, which began in 1957 with the assistance of the eisenhower administration as part of an "atoms for peace" initiative. good morning. this is an amazing crowd. we have already turned away a good 50 people or more. kennedy, director of the national history center. i want to welcome you to this re-think on the history of u.s.-iranian relations. this is part of an ongoing series at the national history
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center to bring historical perspectives to current issues that are confronting congress and the nation. the purpose of the program is not to provide or advocate for any political position. it isnonpartisan, intended to inform policymakers and the public about the issues they are dealing with. want to give a few thanks, first to the mellon foundation for providing funding that makes these briefings possible. i also want to thank our helpingt, jeffrey, for make the arrangements. i want to thank the office of gerry connolly, which booked the room, and i want to remind or explain why there are index cards on your seat and why i
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passed index cards around. what we will do after presentations by the speakers is we will get questions, and we would like you to write those questions on the index cards, rather than asking front of the audience. so keep your index cards ready, jot down questions when they come to mind. now i will turn this over to matthew, to offer introductions. matthew: thank you, dane and jeff and everybody who helped arrange this event. everyone out there supports the national history center and all the other professional organizations and networks that help historians thrive. thank you for coming to the event. get youhave to
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information about professional organizations like schaefer, the society for historians of foreign relations. rooms are full every june when that organization meets. but what we are talking about today is the history of u.s.-iran relations. in this binational relationship, as with most, history is a matter of perspective how one defines it. to some, we need to understand why thomas jefferson had books about cyrus the great in his library. to others, we might need to study the arrival of american in thearies in iran 1830's and the work they continued through the mid 20th century. some would contend this early history was displaced by the official u.s. presence in iran, which arguably began during the second world war and came in the form of tens of thousands of troops. others would point to dates like
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1953, when an anglo american crew -- anglo american cu overthrew a democratically elected government in iran at the height of the cold war. others are interested in the contemporary pass that began in 1979. it was in that year that the near 40 year rule of the u.s. ally, the shock, came to an end. it was replaced with the islamic republic of iran, which marked its 40th anniversary of the revolution in february. so we had the deep past, the cold war, and the post-1979 area -- era. regardless of the era one studies, it is an exciting time to study u.s.-iran relationships, and today we have a range of methodologies that can help us understand the past. despite methodological differences, so-called traditional diplomatic and military historians regularly
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work alongside's dollars -- work alongside scholars. in this rich landscape the annals of history continue to unfold through declassification of documents or through reinterpretation of old documents through lenses of race, culture, gender and emotion just to name a few. in addition to these historical subfields, other disciplines help drive the conversation. if one comes from the iranian studies background, these are interdisciplinary areas of inquiry. one could borrow from other disciplines as well as history, political science helping to move the conversation forward. that brings me to the introduction. we have two speakers today. one is a professor at the department of political science at tulane university. read his bio to you
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here, but many of us have read his book, "u.s. foreign policy and the shah," published in 1991 in addition to his articles. john is our second presenter, associate director of the middle east center at the university of pennsylvania. he has a long list of publications, but i would alert you to one that is forthcoming an and america: a history" and you will be able to pick that up when it is published in a year or so. with that i will turn the floor over to professor gas around ski. -- the professor. matt, and dane and the national history center for inviting me.
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ofm going to give a sketch u.s. policy toward iran since the revolution four years ago. ago.volution 40 years the u.s. has shifted a lot, cycled back and forth between different approaches to iran. to simplify things, i would say u.s. policy toward iran has cycled through three main postures toward iran in the 40 years since the revolution. first, a posture of engagement in which the u.s. uses primarily diplomacy toward iran and third parties to try to reach a comprehensive settlement of outstanding differences with iran, rather than just narrow issues, and also engagement usually is aimed at bringing about some kind of domestic although iran,
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certainly peacefully, mainly encouraging moderates. a very good model for engagement rapprochementina in the 1970's, when the u.s. and china went from being extremely hostile to a much more cooperative relationship. so engagement is one posture the u.s. has taken from time to time. where thecoercion, u.s. also is trying to big about comprehensive change in iran's behavior, but in a much more hostile way, using economic sanctions, military action of various kinds, various levels, to try to intimidate iran into backing down across the board, or what their preference usually is, using these kinds of hostile measures to carry out regime change in iran, to try to bring down the islamic regime or change it very substantially. thirdly, containment.
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repeatedly, the u.s. has returned to a posture of containment toward iran, where we try to limit iran's objectionable behavior, but without any great hope of achieving a big change. ofetime in periods containment, the u.s. and iran have made limited, transactional agreements that are mutually beneficial, but containment is mainly aimed at just that, containing a rainy and iraniane, -- containing asluence, much the same efforts to contain the soviet union throughout the cold war. i'm going to briefly sketch through what i would call 10 distinct periods in u.s. policy toward iran since the revolution.
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the early ones are not so important and i will skip through them quickly. there is a lot written about this, john's forthcoming book will be good. another i would recommend came out five or six years ago by david crist called "the twilight war" which i think you will find fascinating. in u.s. policy toward iran. worst of all, the first 10 years after the revolution, 1979 until 1989, the u.s. bounced back and forth between different approaches. the carter administration, before the u.s. hostages were taken in november 1979, the u.s. byassy in tehran was seized iranian radicals, and before than the carter administration and encouraged moderates and tried to swing the iranian
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revolution in a moderate direction. this did not work. they did to some extent continued this after the hostages were taken, but very quickly the carter administration was consumed with trying to get the hostages released, and iran was in a process of rapid radicalization. it made impossible any efforts by the u.s. to achieve change with iran. so the carter administration was a time of engagement. this was entirely frustrated by growing radicalization in iran the seco -- radicalization in iran. period was during the reagan administration, and you might think that there was hostility toward iran, but this was not really coercion, i would score this as a phase of containment toward iran, quite surprisingly given there were major classes between -- major
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clashes between the u.s. and iran, especially in lebanon. in the 1980's, iran was back in groups that were precursors to and they did a lot of nasty things, killed various americans and terrorist attacks in lebanon, took government personnel hostage, some were tortured to death, there was a lot of severe hostility and attack by dachshund attacks by iran -- severe hostility and attacks by iran to the u.s.. so the early reagan period i would score as containment, and relatively effective. iran rapidly became isolated in the early 1980's. the second reagan period is the period of the iran contra
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affair, i fascinating detail but ancient history. 1985-1986 the reagan administration tried, number one, to get the hostages in lebanon released, but also the atn-contra affair was aimed trying to initiate raab rosemont with iran that hopefully would snowball and lead to comprehensive change and moderation on the part of the iranians. this didn't work. radicals in iran torpedoed this initiative. --ould score our ron-contra score iran-contra as an effort toward engagement but it did not work, just like the carter efforts. the lastn-contra in two years of the reagan administration, this was a time of reversion to containment. there was a lot of tension between the u.s. and iran at this time, military clashes in the persian gulf in the last
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couple of years of the iran-iraq war and various other tensions, not really coercion but certainly far from engagement. so the first 10 years, cycling back and forth between engagement and coercion, engagement and containment, nothing working very well. the first bush administration, coming into office in early 1989, at least initially gave the look of pursuing racks post mont -- pursuing rapprochement with iran, but it never went anywhere. a famous phrase in the bush inaugural speech in 1980 nine was, "goodwill begets goodwill." getting theirant friends in lebanon to release the remaining american hostages showsanon, if iran
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goodwill, we will reciprocate. one problem is it took three years for the remaining hostages in lebanon to be released, december 1991 they were released, things had changed quite a bit. u.s. priorities shifted rapidly after the desert storm war, the mid rid -- the madrid peace process began, the first bush administration was invested in that, pushed it hard, iran was very much an opponent and that soured prospects for better relations. so i would score the first bush administration as a period of containment, even though there ,as talk about engaging pursuing engagement, but that never got off the ground. the early clinton period largely continued this. the clinton administration was pursuing many of the same goals as the bush administration the
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middle east, especially the israeli-palestinian peace process, which morphed into the oslo process under clinton. also in the early clinton years, iran was carrying out a lot of terrorist attacks, especially in europe but also elsewhere, andssinating iranian exiles a couple of attacks in argentina and elsewhere. so this is a time in which iran is being schizophrenic and on whether hand -- and on one hand being open to the united states in terms of talking points, but on the other hound -- on the other hand, carrying out nasty attacks. this culminated in the hobart towers bombing of 1986, backed by but not carried out by iran, in which 19 u.s. air force personnel were killed in a dramatic terrorist attack. there was strong suspicion immediately that iran was behind
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this, but the clinton administration did not get concrete proof for quite some time periods of the clinton administration chose to wait until they had strong evidence. by the time they had strong evidence, things had changed a so the clinton administration never retaliated with military force, though they retaliated with a fascinating covert operation called operation sapphire. it is pretty interesting. , thehis changed very much beginning of the more important period of today in u.s.-iran relations comes in 1997 when a stunning election outcome emerges in iran. elected president very quickly made pronounced overtures towards the united states, and the clinton
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administration quickly realized this was an important change and began to reciprocate. 1998, thearound clinton administration began pursuing engagement with iran, trying to strengthen the president, trying to take advantage of the change that had occurred at see if they could make something of it. ,othing really came of it certainly not in the clinton term, but it was a tantalizing period and one of several periods of engagement the u.s. has pursued. the george w. bush administration inherited this and in some ways conditions were more fruitful, having to do with what was going in 2001,ally in iran the beginning of the george w. bush administration. thisush administration and
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period never formulated its iran policy and had conflicting views. hardliners wanted to be tough on iran, but soft line people wanted to continue the obama approach of engagement. but once 9/11 came along, that changed everything. for a few months after 9/11, iran was extremely helpless to the u.s., especially in afghanistan. they facilitated the u.s. effort to overthrow the taliban in afghanistan and wipe out al qaeda training camps there, and helpful inas very setting up the new post-taliban government headed by karzai, and the bush administration took advantage of this goodwill but certainly did not reciprocate. pretty quickly, the bush beganstration after 9/11 to reveal its new approach
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toward iran and the middle east in general. broadly speaking, this was phrased at the time as the global war on terrorism. the main focus was al qaeda, but also pretty quickly iraq was brought into this as a supporter of terrorism, and iran as well. bush made a2002, speech, i think it was the state of the union, calling iran part of an axis of evil. this began a period of stock hostility by the united states periodiran, basically a of coercion which continued to the remainder of the bush administration. the u.s. invaded iraq in 2003. tensions in iraq, heated up between the u.s. and iran, with the u.s. apparently
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supporting various ethnic really forces carrying out terrorist attacks inside iran, and iran backing shiite militias in iraq that carried out many, many attacks against u.s. forces. so you could say there was really a low-level, secret war theing out, at least in last few years of the george w. bush administration, with hundreds killed on both sides, hundreds of american military personnel killed with iranian fingerprints on the weapons, and hundreds of a rainy and skilled in terrorist attacks seemingly backed by the united states, although this is kind of murky. so certainly the last seven years or so of the bush ofinistration work a period coercion and really the model of coercion that is out there today. finally, that brings us to the obama administration. with the failure of the bush
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administration to achieve much from its coercive efforts, obama came into office wanting to pursue a different approach, wanting to pursue engagement. he made a series of speeches, particularly in his first year, 2009, calling for better relations with iran and tried very hard. but the iranians did not reciprocate in that period. so gradually the u.s. began further ratcheting up economic sanctions begun under bush. and obama ratcheted them up startedially, and iran to scream, the economy really went into a tailspin. in about 2013, the obama administration launched an initiative poured iran, and toward-- initiative iran, initially a secret initiative, to scale back the nuclear program. this led to the jcpoa nuclear agreement of 2015. the obama people hoped this
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would lead further to a broader rapprochement, and this was certainly a broad engagement effort, but nothing came of that. iran did certainly agree to limit its nuclear program, and has been abiding by that agreement until recently, but nothing further came of it, so engagementse obama's initiative, if the goal was broader rapprochement with iran, was very much a failure. that brings us to the trump administration. the trump administration has not fully revealed its intentions toward iran, but clearly the u.s. has been quite hostile toward iran, but it is not out of the question that president trump might decide to do with iran what he has been doing with north korea, bazaar but it is not out of the question he might try that with iran, but he has hinted at that.
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so it is too early to say with the trump approach is. what conclusions can we draw from this cycling back and forth among three postures toward iran? the main conclusion is, nothing has worked well with iran. iran doesn't respond either to friendship or hostility from the united states. engagement, there have been four major efforts at engagement, reagan, clinton, obama, none of them producing anything other than small agreements here and there, mainly because radical forces inside iran continued to torpedo these efforts, and they are still there now, maybe stronger than they have been in recent years, so engagement has not been successful so far, and i think its prospects now are limited. secondly, coercion. the main u.s. effort at coercion was the george w. bush
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administration. this got nowhere and was quite harmful to the u.s. hundreds of u.s. personnel killed with iranian fingerprints not stopping the iranian nuclear program, so coercion also has not worked in the past. this brings us to containment. also has not worked well toward iran, although maybe better than engagement or coercion. iran has expanded its presence over the years in places like lebanon, iraq, syria, yemen to some extent, elsewhere, among the palestinians, but on the other hand, iran is pretty isolated in the middle east. the only government that is very friendly with iran is syria, and that is just a shadow of a government. iran has a few friends here and isre like hezbollah, but it
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really very isolated. so containment has had some successes and there have been small, specific transactional agreements reached in various containment initiatives that we have seen, most importantly the jcpoa of 2015. so i think containment is the only thing we can hope for for the foreseeable future. i don't think conditions are right either for engagement or coercion tort iran -- coercion toward iran, and the fundamental problem remains radical forces especially the supreme leader, he is deeply anti-american, always has been, always will be. the one ray of light, the one piece of good news i could mention is that the president is now 80 years old, is ailing, has cancer, and he has been in
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office about 30 years now, but one of these days he will exit the scene, may be in five years, something like that. that might possibly ring about -- possibly bring about change in iran, as the death of stalin did in the death of mao the soviet union and china. but there is no guarantee that a new era would be any better, so probably containment for the foreseeable future is the best we could hope for, sadly to say. thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> thank you, very much. very big thank you to dane and jeff and the center for inviting me, and thank you to matt and
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share thehonored to stage with distinguished historians, and excited to see the overflow room. to be as boring as i can so people will leave and we can get some more seats. give john a seat, a former hostage at the embassy in tehran, i think he deserves a seat. i am going to address the nuclear issue, something we have been talking about for a long time. and i am going to take an unusual approach that you may disagree with, and i am happy to talk this through in questions and answers. as a historian, i have been working for a number of years on
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this book, a history of u.s.-iran relations, and people want to know what you think. and a few years ago when jcpoa was being negotiated, people would say, you are working on a history of u.s.-iran relations, what do you think of the deal, good deal, bad deal? and i would surprise people by saying it is self-evidently a good deal, anyone who looks at it closely would say that. but i actually think that is irrelevant. it is not really the real issue. crisis has nuclear been ginned up for so many years. it is largely a distraction, and it is difficult to engage with it in isolation from the larger issue of u.s.-iran relations. that is something people are surprised to hear. it is such an urgent crisis and so on. i'm not sure i agree. if you look at history you understand, if you look at the history of the iranian nuclear
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program you understand why i would make that argument. i'm hoping in theder claim is absence of trust, in the absence conversationtive or channel of diplomacy, genuine andomacy, between the u.s. iran, there's not much point in talking about isotopes, fuel rods, enrichment, and so on. when we were talking about it, i think we have seen that proven to be the case in the last couple of years. we have seen how quickly things can unravel when there is not a larger atmosphere. was negotiatedal with great time and energy. in the end, it disappeared in a different political climate. that's what we have to address. mark laid out some of the
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broader outlines. i will talk about the history of the iranian nuclear program. hopefully i get us up to the current moment we are in so we can understand better why this may not be important as we think it is. the take away message is it is not really about the nuclear program. it's not really about that. let's start at the beginning. how many people actually know when the iranian nuclear program began? one. the nuclear program begins in 1957/1958. it begins with cooperation from the u.s.
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it is the eisenhower administration that had its flagship atoms for peace program. this was an attempt after the horrors of hiroshima and nagasaki to prove that nuclear power can be used for positive purposes. was the u.s. would cooperate with developing countries to develop peaceful nuclear energy for their civilian purposes. first u.s. gave iran its batch of enriched uranium, about six kilograms of leu. in the late 1960's, they helped iran to build tehran's research reactor. was for radioactive and medical purposes. this continued through the 60's and 70's. somesn't just democrats,
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of the most vigorous advocates of the nuclear program were people like henry kissinger, donald rumsfeld, and dick cheney in the ford administration. if you look at some of the documents, you will see how vigorous they pushed this. they felt it was critical for iran. you often hear the talking points from opponents of iran. why does iran need nuclear power no one can take seriously the idea that they would need nuclear power. that iranctually felt needed nuclear power. a basic reason was if you're a developing country that has a lot of oil, it does not make a lot of sense to build very expensive refineries to use the purposes.mestic power it is kind of a waste of time and money. if you have huge amounts of oil, you are better off selling it on
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the international market using the money to develop a much more program thatnergy will last many years after the oil has run out. that's what all the studies in the 1970's, that was the case they made. the u.s. government-funded studies in the 1990's and 2000 made the same claims. that have not changed for iran. the fact that it is an oil-rich country does not mean it doesn't need nuclear power. there always has been a genuine need for nuclear power. as you know, nuclear technology technology.e it can be used for medical research, radioactivity, energy production, and also, building nuclear weapons. that's were the concern comes from. in the 70's, this was not much of a concern. henry kissinger said famously "i don't think the issue of proliferation really ever came up." thisact was we trusted
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close american ally enough that we believed whatever he said when it came to nuclear program. a doesn't mean we gave him cut, there were limits on how much nuclear cooperation the u.s. was prepared to undertake with iran. it wa the same -- it wasn't the same atmosphere of distrust that exists today. 1979, revolution breaks out. iran's nuclear program is completely abandoned. not because the u.s. put this huge amount of pressure on iran, but because iran chose to abandon its nuclear program after 1979. feltne who came to power nuclear program was yet another example of the excessive fascination with shiny western objects and technology, things that were not islamic, that were not authentic to an islamic republic, and that it should be
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abandoned. this is not just the idea of nuclear weapons, this was the nuclear program completely. they said weapons of destruction were a sin against islam. he cited a lot of text against these kinds of weapons of mass destruction. he said even the peaceful nuclear research that was going on, the energy production, all of that was new western technology that iran could do without. he mothballed the entire program. when khomeini died in 1989, a new more moderate, and somewhat more pragmatic group of people came to power. affordlt iran could not to be quite so complacent about either its energy needs, medical needs, but also, security needs. the feeling was it is not islamic to build a bomb, but is it islamic to do some research? to maybe build some centrifuges?
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perhaps enriched uranium? there is nothing against that? it was also a concern about saddam hussein. ins is what is often missed american conversations about theiranian nuclear program. we have conversations about what the u.s. can do to get iran to do what we want. we often forget iran, despite the rhetoric and the heated nature of the u.s.-iran relations, iran is often less concerned with what the u.s. is saying or doing then what its immediate neighbors are doing. in the 1990's, western intelligence, global intelligence was convinced saddam hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction. you all know about that. it wasn't just the u.s. that was concerned. who would be more concerned about that than iraq's neighbor? the neighbor who just fought a
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devastating eight-year war with saddam hussein. no one was more concerned about saddam's ambitions when it came to wmd's than iran. iran had a moral concept in the 1990's to continue to maintain the islamic -- stricter against research and development of a , or to not build a bomb, but get as close as they can. build the technology that might make saddam hussein think twice before developing a nuclear weapon or unleashing it. that was the calculation they made. in thenuclear program 1990's was brought out of the mothballs and reinvigorated. it was largely rudimentary. the possible military dimensions of that in the 1990's has been something an conclusive, and one of the major issues. to what degree was it just
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research and development and basic first generation centrifuges? to what extent was it more? it is an open question. one of the most interesting things about what happened in the 1990's is how was iran going to build a nuclear program? it was easy in the 70's, pick up the phone to washington and you got the help he needed. how will iran do that in the 1990's? it is trying to reinvigorate the program it abandoned. this is where we step back to history, but you have to look at the larger global infrastructure of nonproliferation. the whole issue that we danced around, in terms of the legal infrastructure behind this, was the 1968 nonproliferation treaty, the ntt. for those of you who are not familiar with it, it is the part
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of the global initiative to try and avoid nuclear catastrophe. the idea behind the ntt was to get as many countries as possible to sign it. there were three basic principles behind it, disarmament, and nonproliferation, and cooperation. you have five, countries in 1968 with nuclear weapons, u.s., soviet union, great britain, france, and china. the idea is you don't want more countries to get nuclear weapons. the three basic principles, the five countries that have weapons agreed to a gradual process of disarmament, reducing their stockpiles. that process is still ongoing and has not fully been accomplished. there's nonproliferation. the countries that don't have the bomb will promise not to have it.
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if you are a country without nuclear weapons in the late 1960's, how will you respond? that doesn't seem very fair. that's where the third principle comes in, the cooperation. that's what is often forgotten about. this is the glue that found it together. saying the nuclear haves you will have to stay have not, but we will cooperate with you, we will give you all of the help you need to build a peaceful civilian nuclear program that you are not being held back scientifically or in any other way. those are the three basic principles. if you are a student, you will realize that the key is it only works if everyone signs up to it . country, if your neighbor has not signed up, why would you? let them build a bomb while you don't? from the very beginning, getting countries to sign up was the most important part. a lot of countries that didn't have nuclear weapons were very resistant to it. countries, the small
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it's interesting -- there was an interview a few years ago with the shaws nuclear chief. he said they never should have signed it. iran was one of the very first thing the trees in 1968. it signed the document the day it opened for signatures. none of the major countries signed it. countries that mostly signed it were fiji, nicaragua, clearly never want to build a bomb. the midrange countries, argentina, they stayed out. they said they are going to build the technology and then sign it. that's exactly what they did. by the 1990's, almost every country in the world had signed it. a couple dozen of them had only done it after they first developed the technology. iran did not do that.
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by the late 1990's, you have three countries refusing to sign it, india, pakistan, and israel. all three of those countries had refused to join, not just so they can develop the technology, but to build actual bombs. india and pakistan got the nuclear weapon in 1998. israel has always been vague. today, they have 200 warheads. this is the point of the iranian s would often make -- we're running out of time. this was the situation iran found itself in the 1990's. they want to restart the program, but how will they do that? t, cooperation nt is part of the? they were not able to get much cooperation. every time they went out to get uranium or something from
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argentina, russia, the u.s. put pressure on those countries not to cooperate with iran. iran was not happy about this. they said it is a violation of the npt, but no one listened. what are they going to do? they started to have to go to more illicit channels to get what they felt was the rights under the npt. int happens if you are iran the 1990's and you go to more illicit channels to build your nuclear program? it is going to immediately increase the suspicion that the u.s. and other enemies have of what you are doing. if you work within the npt, everything works great. you get the cooperation you want. one of the key provisions is you get inspections from the iea. if they think you're doing something suspicious, the corporation ends. and.e cooperation i think that's where the dispute began.
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i guess we're out of time. the's where we ended up in 2000 when the dispute became much more front page news. i want to leave a lot of time for q&a. i wanted to talk about the 2000 and when we got here, but that's the deep history of the iranian nuclear program. you don't have to sympathize with the iranian or be a big fan of their government, but you should understand historically how we got here. it is not perhaps as simple as some of the headlines suggest. [applause] >> at this point, if you want to take one minute and write down a question on the card that was on your seat when you sat down, we can proceed to collect them and
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i will ask questions that appear on those cards. if your question does not get asked, you can stay after and we can talk a little bit. i actually have one question i would like to ask while you consider your questions, so if you can keep the room quiet. directed question towards both of our panelists. it deals with the joint comprehensive plan of action, the iran nuclear deal. my question is this. you made the statement that without trust, there is no reason to talk about centrifuges and other aspects of nuclear technology. nuclear program, which as you demonstrate, has been around for many decades, provide a vehicle for the u.s. and iran to have discussions? is it a vehicle for engagement and an issue that can be
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discussed in ways that -- domestic issues in iran or regional proxies? my question would be to mark, how do you respond, is the nuclear issue a genuine pact that provides each side with acceptable risks and leverage to meet a broader agreement, or are there in equities, as john makes clear? is the nuclear deal a legitimate path to engagement, or is it something that of starks the dialogue we may want to see down the road between the countries? obama'swas exactly philosophy. i think he came to power believing he wanted a much more head agreement with iran,
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felt it was time to rewrite the map of u.s. alliances in the middle east. i don't think he was interested in the nuclear issue, but because it was the hot issue, he saw it as a way in to a broader conversation. i think immediately, we saw how quickly it fell. by focusing on the nuclear issue, it allowed those opposed to the idea of the relations, in particular, those days, israel, to basically make a lot of noise andnd the nuclear issue encourage ways for the u.s. to get more bogged down in some of the specifics of the nuclear negotiations. we saw how that went. eventually, obama got his deal. in a way, the clock was kind of ran out. he got the deal within about one
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year at the end of his second term. there wasn't much energy or time left for serious agreements. >> i agree entirely. i would add that on the iranian side, there was no following up these past four years. what's been happening in the last year or so, the water is much more muddy then it was back then. we have some great questions coming in. please keep them coming. thequestion deals with , its position in the middle east, current rising tensions between iran and the world. i think the core of this question, or what it speaks to is the nature of american allies. are there historical insights that we can claim to help us understand how the u.s. can
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mileage -- manage its allies allies that may not have the same interests but otherwise that the u.s. deals with? does it go into that relationship historically or today? >> i don't think u.s. allies have been important players toward iran in these big, diplomatic issues we have been talking about since the british bow down. the europeans, both individual countries and collectively as the eu, have engaged in negotiations with iran, they are pursuing a different path today, but it is not amounting to a lot. i don't see them being able to make some time -- type of agreement without the u.s.. i don't think they have the desire. have the powerey
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capabilities to do so. i think it is really an american show. >> it depends on which allies you are talking about. since the u.k. was brought up, for at least 15 years, i have been saying despite all of the rhetoric, i have never felt there was much likelihood of a , but for the iran first time, i'm concerned about the possibility of a british war with iran for a number of reasons. gibraltar,ken in apparently the spanish were given the same intelligence and said they would not act on it. bait.itish took the i do worry with boris johnson in power, with brexit looming, the u.k. is much more isolated, it has been needing allies. expect the u.k.
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to grow much closer to the u.s. position. motivated by is instincts and sees himself as the type of leader. what better way to unify the country then bringing out the gunboats? or the splatter of musketry? unifying them. that's something i worry about with the general brexit atmosphere. >> we will move from allies to advisors. how do you feel about john bolton's influence on the trump administration? my question would be about the relationship between presidents advisors. in history, we are reading about not just national security advisers, but iran desk officers, persons on the national security council and the way folks in the mid-level
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bureaucracy influenced policies. can tellanything you us about the relationship between presidents and advisers and the formulation of iran policy? you can address both in and pompeo, or perhaps a historical moment that speaks to this question. i could say a lot of things. timeth spent a lot of looking at mid-level advisors. i think the role of someone like dennis ross is critical. it is interesting to look at. i actually think that despite the so-called warmongering instinct of someone like bolton, the goal is not war, and it is
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not to bring about regime change. it is pure speculation. i think they genuinely believe that if they put enough pressure on iran, that they will somehow come to the negotiating table. i don't know if they wanted to talk about a more broad deal so they can say they did a better deal. in a way, i like that approach. i always thought the u.s. should take a much broader approach to its iran diplomacy. before i get quoted as saying i thatthe approach, i like they are looking at a much broader range of issues. however, i think they will find themselves disappointed if they actually believe iran is going to capitulate on every single issue in the way that they presented it, giving the u.s. in theeeping victory
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u.s. had with the cold war and so on. that's not going to happen. i think that's what we are going to find out. >> one historical counterpoint i would add, i think of the kennedy period. there's a lot of literature on how the administration pressured or did not pressure the shot of iran. kennedy is very important. that, peopleof ake robert comber figures 1961 and 1962 that they are driving the policy conversation about iran before the issue reaches the desk of the president for executive action or the drafting of a new national security memorandum. the question we can see parallels in the past with the situation. of the moments, shot downrand bargain
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by cheney and rumsfeld, and make sure it never reached the desk of the president. a lot of people disagreeing about what exactly was involved. they propose a sweeping negotiation of broad negotiations with the u.s. and the response, colin powell was hoping there would be a serious hearing. instead, the response was they don't talk to evil. whatth regard to iran and they might want, or why they would not enter into negotiations with the u.s., important context is iran's writes within the international system and under the regime. lost inen gets conversations that happened quickly and are covered in brief news stories. haverights does iran
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within the international system, within the context of international law as they are dealing with the rest of the world? what recourse do they have in these feelings? >> they certainly have a right to develop the civilian nuclear program and a right to free trade and things of that sort. the trump administration doesn't seem to care much about that, nor have previous administrations. i think this is much more about exercising power. the key issue is whether the economy will withstand the sanctions are not. the jury is still out on that. we will know within one year. the economy may be screaming. that may trigger domestic unrest. it is hard to say. that's the key instrument the u.s. is wielding, the sanctions. a key part is whether the europeans will go along with more work cross purposes to the
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u.s. sanctions. secondly, were there other players, especially china, but also the russians, maybe east asians, that will violate the spirit of the u.s. sanctions? that's the key set of issues, how the economics will play out. it is too early to say. who cares about rights anymore? not the trump administration, that's for sure. history thatthe you discussed taking us through 10 stages? we have a specific question about the iran-iraq war and the impact on the u.s.-iran relations. you made a content -- comment that some of the developments were ancient history. an event make sense of like the war that has such a lasting impact on iranians, everything they experienced in the 80's and that war?
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how do we consider these historical hangups between the u.s. and iran, or major conflicts that result in death, loss of life, transformation of society? how do they affect conversations today, or do they? >> iran was severely traumatized by the war. not one family in iran that didn't lose somebody or at least had somebody wounded. i have known so many people who have cost from poison gas or had limbs amputated. certainly loved ones lost. it remains a big factor inside iran. above all, the impact of the war is to make iranians very careful about their security. iranis a major impetus for reviving its nuclear program in the 1990's to have a nuclear weapon we can use to deter an
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iraqi attack in various other kinds of preparations and concerns in the 90's about iraq. iraq was no longer hostile towards iran. it was a friendly regime in power that we put in power in baghdad, which iran is pretty happy with. there any ends are still concerned -- the iranians are concerned about their security. we shouldn't forget the u.s. participated in the iran-iraq war, and enabled clashes in the gulf in the last year or two of the war. as aans look at the war region to fear american power. they have taken all kinds of measures to prepare themselves to retaliate against the u.s., and they will use them. a bigwas definitely impact, as much as world war ii on the u.s. the other critical aspects, when you think about the nuclear program, it is not a point often lost in the u.s., whether you
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choose to believe them or not, there is something you need to take in consideration, which they are the victim of significant chemical weapon attacks. that shaped the mentality of the country more than we appreciate. the first major use of chemical weapons warfare since the first world war. you still have veterans walking around and feeling the physical effects of this. perhaps no country other than japan is more sensitive to the issue -- to the danger -- the hardship and suffering brought about by weapons of mass distraction. this often plays into the discussion about the nuclear program more than we appreciate. in addition to the religious concerns about weapons of mass destruction, iran has felt firsthand the consequences. it will be difficult for any iranian government to seriously
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gain major public support for the idea of building, let alone using, a nuclear weapon. >> a couple other questions came in after i asked the last one. we have good history students in the room. questions about the shootdown of the iranian plane in the 1980's, even a question that goes back to the coup of 1953. i wanted to look knowledge those questions. i will ask one more before we break for the day. i guess this is directed towards the professor, but it could be fielded. directly.t read it is it possible that all three strategic approaches have failed because the u.s. has switched between them so much? could the u.s. build trust and succeed with engagement, containment, or the others, if the u.s. proved to be
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consistent, trustworthy, pick an approach and stick with it? is it a question of strategic flaws, or is it a question of strategic consistency? >> this is a good point. i still think the most important set of obstacles is the nature of iranian domestic politics. there is a lot of deep hostility towards the u.s. among iran's leaders, not so much among the iranian people. the inconsistency, shifting back and forth, most are medically, we have seen the trump administration abandoning not just about jcpoa, but the engagement approach of the obama administration. that severely undermines trust. how severely, how adversely that would affect prospects in the coming years, it is hard to say. i have been surprised to see iran make some noise about
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wanting to have some discussions with the u.s., or renegotiate in the last few weeks are so. i think they are probably more pragmatic than i usually figure them to be. these are just words, you can't really tell how serious they are about it. this is a really big problem. they don't know almost from what minute to the next what the u.s. will do, especially if there are changes in the administration. are hopinge iranians trump will lose the election in 2020. i'm hoping they can hold out until then. road, theyn the can't be sure who would replace them. the current democrats seem to be pretty much on board with going back to the obama approach. beyond that, who knows? they certainly have a lot of distrust in the u.s.. a fair amount of that is valid.
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they are a lot more stable than we are, and a lot more consistent, because they have a dictatorship that has not changed much. that's the downside to democracy. >> such an extremely astute question. i agree with most of what mark says. i also would point out it is not the changes in the u.s. administration are relevant, but sometimes within the course of the single administration, there are changes. seniortioned the bush against goodwill in 1989. not to blame the u.s., but i understand things changed during the three years it took to get ased.ostages rele he said goodwill begets goodwill -- i'm a bungled the quote, but america keeps his word, whether it is on marble steps, something along those lines.
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the implication was "we will keep our promises if you can keep the hostages freed." the cold where, but fundamentally, iran did bend over backward to get the hostages released. it was not easy. despite the way it is presented, iran doesn't have a command-and-control, a straight line to hezbollah. they went to lebanon and found it difficult to convince some of the lebanese militias to release the hostages. they got it done and did not get rewarded. that experience stayed with the iranians. even when obama came and made his lovely speeches and televise readings, there was a lot of skepticism. can they trust it? what they thought was they saw nice words before. to them, that was a reference to 1989. they wanted to see action. they did not see that over the next few years. even when it came to the final stage of negotiations, the
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supreme leader was skeptical, but said "let's try this." heroic flexibility and so on. he kind of said he wasn't sure it was going to work out. much of the hardliners felt you can't really trust america. it is unfortunate -- i don't think it is just the change of administration that has proven that point of view right, it has made it easier for the hardliners to say you can't trust america. you don't have to agree with or love the iranian, the islamic republic, to see that from their perspective, often negotiations and engagement have turned into a game of rope a dope. -- actually, another way for the u.s. to try and get us to do what they want. often saidve consistently "we will negotiate, we will engage, but not if you
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are trying to use negotiations as another tool to win a victory, or to try and dismantle the islamic republic or bring about regime change through the back door." to be honest, that's a lot of what they have seen, unfortunately. that's where i might part with mark. it is not always about changes of administration, it's also about a fundamental mentality that we have in this country that the goal should be to bring about the complete surrender and capitulation of the islamic republic. i'm not sure that's a useful goal. to --t know we are able it may or may not happen, but it will not because of anything the u.s. has done. >> thank you all for the questions and discussions. [applause]
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here and hownd conversations with anybody who would like to have them. >> this is american history tv, on c-span3. each weekend, we featured 48 hours exploring our nation's past.


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