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tv   U.S Iran Persian Gulf Security Discussion at University of Michigan  CSPAN  December 13, 2019 5:36pm-6:56pm EST

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website that i interviewed says entrepreneurs are different. we fail and when we do we get back on the horse. >> watch book tv this weekend and every weekend on c-span2. several former u.s. ambassadors to persian gulf countries talked about security in the gulf region and u.s. relations with iran. this event was held at the university of michigan's ford school of public policy in ann arbor. [ applause ] hello, everybody, welcome. i would like first also to add my thanks to the wiser family as well as to the american academy of diplomacy with which we've been fortunate to partner with today's event together. the topic we'll address is timely and extremely important. we will talk about u.s.-iran relations, the nuclear deal, politics and security in the
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gulf more generally and of course, those issues are linked to a whole range of other regional issues relevant to u.s. foreign policy in the middle east from israel and the palestinian territories to the conflicts in siria, yemen and afghanistan and beyond, and to have a discussion on such an important and wide-ranging array of issues we have assembled a real dream team of diplomats with experience in the region and i'm going introduce them briefly and trust me, introducing them in a time-efficient manner requires distillation of their incredible accomplishments across decades of u.s. foreign service. i'm going to start on my left, your right with ambassador gerald feierstein who say 41-year career veteran in the u.s. foreign service and now retired and he was ambassador to yemen during the obama administration from 2010 to 13. the principal assistant deputy the state for near eastern
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affairs from 2013 to '16 and has had many other crucial posts of mission in pakistan as well as senior post in the counter terrorism bureau and postings elsewhere in saudi arabia, oman, lebanon, and tunisia. he is senior vice president of the middle east institute which as you know is a leading think tank in washington. immediately to his right is ambassador patrick theros who is president and executive director of the u.s. qatar business counsel and he has a 35-year foreign service career with many distinguished posts as well as u.s. ambassador to qatar and adviser to the commander in chief for central command which is the u.s. military command with coverage of the middle east region. he has also been deputy chief of mission in jordan as well as syria among other roles.
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ambassador run aonald is his ri is with the american academy of diplomacy and served as ambassador to algeria, bahrain and most recently to afghanistan from 2005 to 2007. he served pry tior to that in baghdad with the coordination in intervention to iran at the time and served during the clinton administration, and has had other roles in yemen, iran, and i think you get the idea, and there is a tremendous collective amount, and ambassador deborah mckarth whoa served as u.s. ambassador to lithuania -- >> which is not in the gulf -- [ laughter ] >> during the obama's second term. she was also principal deputy assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs
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and served among many other important roles in nicaragua and deputy assistant secretary for narcotics and law enforcement. she is going to take it for me in a moementd and moderate a conversation for 45 minutes with our expert guests before we open it to all of you and you'll see people going around with note cards and please pass your questions and they'll bring them to us and we will select questions that are representative of the group to pose to our expert panel. so thank you again to our guests and we look forward to a great conversation. [ applause ] >> i feel very privileged to be here and also to be directing and moderating the dream team here. by the way, the dream team was the basketball team of lithuania, but that's a separate issue and i won't go into that. as you can see with the vast experience that they have all
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across the middle east, deep experience from young years in the diplomatic service to the senior years in the diplomatic service, i wanted to start and the panel as follows, to talk a little bit about what's happening inside the region and then we'll get to what's happening between the u.s. and iran and then if we have time we'll put it in the bigger geopolitical context. so to draw on the deep history and knowledge on the history of the culture and obviously of our bilateral relations i want to ask each of you to speak on the power dynamics taking place today within the region and specifically to talk a little bit about how iran is perceived by its neighbors in the gulf. so jerry, would you like to start? >> thank you, deborah, and delighted to be with you today. the dynamics in the region are particularly the competition
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between iran and the major states of the gcc of the gulf, saudi arabia and the united arab emirates and of course, between iran and israel, as well and so when you look at -- when you look at the reach of the region, what you're looking at really is the reaction of the other states to what is broadly perceived as iran's expansionist programs, its search for hegemony in the region and the reaction to those states to what they see as the threat from an expansionist iranian state, and that, of course, plays into what we're going to talk about with the iranian states. one is the ballistic missile
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programs. second is iranian interference and the internal affairs of its neighbors in the gulf context that means particularly yemen and bahrain, and then third is iranian support for terrorism and how the region responds to those three perceived threats. >> you want to comment? >> all of the threats are real and you have to take one thing into context. this is not a new development and the gulf -- i've talked to many gulf leaders and all of whom say it was the same of the days of the shah. we've been around in this area for the last several centuries and we've always looked at iran as predatory power as someone trying to control us so this is not terribly new. in fact, if anything for the smaller states in the gulf, the
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problem in the last century has been two predatory powers and one is saudi arabia on one side and is seen as expansionist and hed hegemonyistic in the last two states and trying to find an outside protector and early on it was the ottomans and it was the british and the gulf states were prepared to -- how could i say, give up a certain amount of their independence in return for their protection. after the british left there was a bit of a hiatus because we were seen as the remaining western super power was seen as supporting the saudi arabia and iran until the iranian revolution and they saw iraq as a valuable -- not ally, but as a valuable counterbalance for years and saddam hussein's iraq was seen as a plus for most of
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the gulf states except kuwait, and when we, in effect took them out and they have their own balance of power. >> iran is the strongest country in the gulf far and away and without outside protection would be the principal threat to the gulf states. however, this is not to say that there are not other threats as well to saudi arabia. >> thanks. >> iran is definitely a threat although perceived differently in different countries and the uae, even when i was there 20 years ago looks at iran and they'd just moved up the ladder of paranoia and remember that even paranoids have real enemy, but there are things which are change in the gulf. the leadership of the states in several cases has changed and is
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younger and is pursuing dynamic courses and in some cases particularly in saudi arabia and the uae breaking away from the traditional, very conservative, almost passive defensive approach to power and the sort of feeling challenging much more so old dynamics. at the same time, you have a real doubling down of monarchies defendanting monarchal systems and there's a tendency in the west to say monarchies, old news and the trash heap of history gone. we've done that, too, back in the '60s when internationalism came in and these people are done for. wrong, they outlasted all of the arab national regimes and they are bidding fair to do it now in some cases by doubling down and
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they've become more repressive and less tolerant and particularly the uae, saudi arabia and various kinds of criticism and while liberalizing the social benefits and it's a mixture on one respect, very liberal regimes and christian churches are open and jewish centers are open and at the same time internal repression if you get out of line and they're all still pretty popular. i would say their chances of remaining are pretty good you can get into different cases and nothing is guaranteed, but the chances of them surviving into this form of government rather that they are not moving to democracy and they are doubling down on not moving and for them the lesson of the arab spring is this thing is awful. look what happened when you pull down these regimes? you've got chaos. you've got bloodshed.
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you've got all kinds of disruption that is still going on and a lot of loss of life and that's not a pretty picture and we don't want to go there, and the last thing i would just note in passing is without trying to bring it out is that these countries are very different from each other. there is a tendency in the u.s. to, you know, see the smaller gulf states as being very much and they're not saudi arabias and just guys running around in bed sheets, but in pafact they' very different from each other. omanis want better relations with iranians. they have historical differences with each other, and i won't go through them except to say that the notion that they are similar in how they regard their citizens and how they work with each other and how they work with their own people and the idea that that is the same in each of them is, in fact, completely incorrect. >> that's a good point.
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let me turn now a little bit to the relationship the united states has with saudi arabia as we build up to other things. we have a strong defense and security relationship. many have criticized the u.s. for overlooking saudi political and human rights abuses. the u.s. congress attempted to pass a resolution to end american military involvement in saudi arabia's war in yemen. this was in reaction to the human suffering in yemen and also to the khashoggi killing. i'll start with you. can you give us an inside view of the u.s.-saudi relationship? how does it work and in particular, how does our diplomacy balance security interest with our support for human rights in this part of the world? >> thanks, deborah. it's actually a very difficult balance to strike because as ron said, we're dealing with political systems with systems of government and society that
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are very different from ours where the -- where the ability of the two sides to really understand one another and to coordinate and cooperate is limb itd. what. what we have with saudi arabia is a relationship that goes back at least to the end of world war ii and in some ways even before world war ii that has been built around two core pillars. one is energy and recognition of saudi arabia as the paramount producer of oil in the world. and therefore a major anchor for global economic security. and then the other aspect, the other pillar is what we have done with the saudis over the course of these past 70 years, in order to promote regional security and stability, partially in terms of building up saudi arabia's own defense capabilities. and
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the second aspect is how we work with the saudis to promote to promote regional security in places like afghanistan where we work very closely together. all the way through to the gulf to syria, to iran. so these have been core principles at every u.s. administration has pursued going all the way back to the roosevelt administration. republican, democrat, it doesn't really matter. we have a stressful situation where we have different differences. and those differences reflect about the rights of citizens, the interaction between citizen and state, the rights particularly for women, for other human rights civil liberties where this has created real tension and friction between our
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bilateral relationship. and so the question is how do you address that? how do you balance between the partnership that we have preserved for all of these years against what has been this kind of fractious period in our relationship? in my view and in the view of the obama administration and now the trump administration, we need to look at what the core u.s. interests are in the region which are primarily the stability and energy pillars and to what extent or the other do you then press on these human rights. my own view is that we have not pressed as much on the human rights side as we should recently. we should take the khashoggi murder more seriously than we have. we need to correct that balance. but i also believe that at the end of the day, we do need to recognize that preserving a good, strong
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saudi-u.s. relationship is important for us to achieve our broader objectives in the region. >> i just wanted to add a note perspective in bahrain when i was there last because we tend to be very certain of our moral reck tude as we look as something like the murder of mr.khashoggi. but what i got from bahrain from sunni and shiah. hey, wait a minute, we absolutely depend on our security from saudi arabia. this crown prince bin salman is undertaking absolutely critical reforms that are central for the stability of the place. by the way, you guys have your relationship with russia even though putin goes around murdering dissidents in various countries. why are you so hung up in danger of destroying this relationship and bringing us into danger as well over one
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killing here when you tolerate multiple killings over there? i don't say that's the view we should take. i just lay it out for you to understand that there are different consensuses and different views at looking at this thing. >> i want to turn now for the u.s. relationship with iran. it's been 40 years since the u.s. hostage taking in iran. since then we've had no official diplomatic information or embassy in iran. our interests are represented by switzerland. while there was extensive contact, most communication today is done via press statements and announcements. ron, you lived in iran as a younger officer and also were the director of the iran-iraq office. you're one of the few who actually lived inside the country. can you talk a little bit about how from that perspective with such limited contacts, how can we manage our relations?
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>> badly. >> ok. next question. (laughs) >> it's true, we tend to look at it very superficially. as they tend to look at us. it's a very long period. debibblet that there's a great splits in view within iran. and there are people for whom the revolution a key peace of the revolution is maintaining the ideological friction. so it creates by the way, i had a great time in iran. i really enjoyed the people. and people who go visit iran tell me they find iranians far more welcoming to americans passing through than many of the iran states although our relationship with the arab government is much better. in
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iran as in america, you have a deep division of people as to whether you ought to have relations as whether you ought to improve your relations whether that's a good thing. so when you get into negotiations, you have there as you have here a need to show that you're really doing something that works well. in order to passify your domestic critics. and of course, since the same situations exists here that sets up a situation in which for each side a successful negotiation is one in which they have to show that they've done really well, which usually means that they do things that the other side can't afford you to show and to passify their critics. so that's not an impossible situation as the nuclear agreement showed. but it is a very fraught situation in which to hold out negotiations making it particularly fraught when you have an approach that says
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we'll tell you what we want and we really don't need to talk to you again. >> afterwards you're going to answer questions about what it was like to live there. the u.s. pulled out of the jcpoa. and they warned that they start withdrawing from the deal. this past fall there was a report that president rouhani and president trump and with the support of french president macron reportedly wanted to list the sanctions in exchange for iran to remain a nonnuclear weapons state. what do you think of the prospects of the u.s. and iran getting back to the table? >> go ahead. >> and if you disagree, all the better. >> i don't think we can do it
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on our own. i don't believe that the american government and the iranian government have any formulas whereby the two of us can get there. it's got to be what mckart is trying to do, but i suspect very strongly, it's got to be on a grander level despite france and its glory. the p five plus one is probably the only vehicle alone, all the principle members of the u.n. security council and the e.u. in effect trying to gang up on the wrong side. gang up may be the wrong term but to start talking to each other because frankly, i don't believe that given the dynamics that ron was describing that there's any leeway on each side to make the necessary even cosmetic concessions that would permit us to come together and have a serious conversation. and what would be worse would be coming together with each side having expectations of the other and not having them met. and frankly without going into too much detail, i think we're
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heading into a train wreck with iran which could be very damaging with the world's economy if that should be in the gulf because of what it would do. so i think it is behooves us and perhaps the iranians to try to get more international intervention to make something work. >> i'll take a little bit of issue with pat and take a slightly more optimistic view. and that is, if you look at the obama policy on iran, and if you look at the trump policy on iran, what you would see are two policys that are diametrically opposed. obama
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theory of the case that which affected in the iran nuclear deal if jcpla was basically if you address what was the key international concern about iranian behavior and that was its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, if you put in place an agreement to to address that, then over time by bringing iran into closer relationship with the community, addressing their economic concerns doing other things, you could then set up the possibility of getting the iranians to address these other issues that i mentioned earlier that were also of broad concern about the missiles, about the interference, about support for terrorism. the trump administration is taking the opposite view which was we can't wait. we're not going to wait for the iranians to come around on their own. they won't do it. and therefore the only way to get them to move on those issues is to basically
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beat them with a stick until they cry uncle. where we are right now is that we never really had the opportunity to see whether the obama approach would work. the trump approach clearly has not worked. and what we saw with the macron initiative was an effort to basically begin the dialogue again, and to bring the u.s. and iran together at the table where they could begin to work through some of these issues. i actually think that they can do that. and it's very clear from both the position of donald trump himself and from what the iranians have said that both sides jinljerly are interested in finding a way to get back to the table. neither of them wants the train wreck that pat is concerned about because both sides recognize that a train
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wreck kills a lot of people including the engineers. so so birthrights to get back to the table. and the period that we're in right now, is the maneuvering between these two sides to figure out who is going to be the stronger party when they sit down at the table. but i do believe that they will sit down at table probably some time before our presidential election next year. >> well, optimism is free. so one might as well indulge. but having said that, i'm not quite as optimistic as gerald. >> i would just note two things. one is the legacy of suspicion and distrust. not only in american legacy, there's a huge iranian legacy going well back into the 1950's when we overthrew an iranian government there which they never forget. like i remember
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my friend john leimbert who has been an advocate of the two stories. he has a favorite story talking to an iranian but he said you have to get over that hostage stuff, you know? and he said, yes, i agree. we should. but you have to get over mosadek. never. they have a history of reaching out to the united states. later and feeling that in each case we walked away and betrayed things. so i do not think we are going you know, we will see. we've got some risky for anybody to make predictions. the time shortened up that you can remember. you could see this. i think what is more likely what i'm seeing is there's a flinching. there's a recognition of what i was talking about train wreck possibility? that's not just the iranians. the saudis the u.a.e. on the various sides of this, how do we talk about this?
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how do we deconflict. >> i think it's possibility that we may avoid the ultimate stupidity at war. because there is ooh recognition of how dangerous that. is there's a tentative reaching out looking for ways to lower the temperature and deconflict. but i'll i'm very pessimistic given the long history. and finally, the iranians made a sense of ah irks i we made an greet. what's the point because you can't trust the americans to hold than an agreement. and then accelerated when you look at syria with this administration of you know, you can't even trust them to keep their own policy straight. so why get
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into this? i'm very pessimistic. some day i think it has to happen. but not in the last year before an election, i don't--- >> if i could just add, to defend myself, the one obstacle to a phone conversation in september, the central issue was they were not able to decide whether or not u.s. sanctions would come before the call or after the call, but the two had agreed to make the call and you are absolutely right. i don't think it will be an easy negotiation. we know it was not an easy negotiation in 2015, but the reality is, whether you like it or not, the one thing that maximum pressure has done is that it has inflicted real economic pain and therefore, they have a strong incentive to
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try to figure out how to deal with that in a way to get sanctions reductions and i don't think they are going to do it because they love us. i don't think they are going to do it because they really want to get back in our good books, but i think that both sides will make the decision to go back to negotiating table because both sides recognize that it is in their interest. >> i'm going to add one time one thing, which is that i ran that at the state department and the last time we squeezed iran, we got very good at sanctions. we have capabilities today that we did not have last time, and they were pretty good. >> we are very good at sanctions. he jokingly said
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there offering courses on how to evade american sanctions, but they haven't got the capacity to do that. >> we have dug ourselves, we collectively, have dug ourselves into a public position, pompeo's ultimatum was very much the austrian ultimatum. it is surrender everything and then have the leadership commit suicide before we talk to you. i don't see this administration easily backing off it. i don't see the iranians trusting us that if we have a conversation, that it will happen. i remember when we did have the first iranian president in which we decided that if we were nice to him, it would not work and it might help the hardliners. this is the mindset that the iranians are working from. >> we are going to come back here a year from today and say it was right.
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>> if i am right, were not going to be able to get back together. (laughs) >> we may have to meet at a bunker. >> the united states has a strong military presence in the region. we have the fifth fleet in bahrain. i know several of you have served in the gulf. u.a.e hosting 5000 military personnel, 10,000 in qatar. the role of kuwait international airport. we have sent more personnel to saudi arabia and launched a new maritime security initiatives in the region. many of the gulf countries are increasing their own capabilities as well. how does this affect power dynamics in the region and our interests? >> one quick one. partly, there
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is this rush to become the owners of the biggest arsenals in the world, meant to buttress their ability to deal with the iranians. more importantly, a power play between the gulf states. they don't trust each other. the recent one country was blockaded by its neighbors. i don't know how much justification, but they convinced themselves that the only reason the saudi's were not coming across the border was the saudi's didn't want to telegraph their intent and they credit tillerson with stopping a ground attack. leaving aside the quality of military forces, what is on the books, saudi arabia is a much larger, more powerful country and at the same time, the uae. the qatarese saw the military as
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having two functions. one was deterring an attack and secondly, dealing with the potential of an order a breakdown of order in saudi arabia if something happened, which is something they talk about a lot. i think the uae's buildup of military force is aimed at iran and throwing his weight on the council. my experience is the uae has the same they have been chipping away at the uae border for generations. i think a large portion of that is part of the jockeying for power between the gulf states. >> you asked
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particularly about the military balance and how gulf states change that. the short answer is very little. these are fundamentally weak states. fundamentally aware of their weakness. the uae has made a real effort to expand the quality of its military and to some extent has succeeded and shown a certain ability to use it effectively. the saudi military has shown very poorly. it went into yemen and has really done badly. it reminded me of when they went something my father said to me when the russians the soviets went into afghanistan every country is entitled to the vietnam of its choice. i think the saudi's
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found theirs. first of all, they are economically powerful, militarily weak. we often tend to exaggerate a lot of the buildup of supply is so they don't have to use it. i remember reading once that there was a technique of writing their camels in a circle to stir up the dust so the enemy would be frightened by the size of the force and you would not have to fight them. there is some part of that still going on, i think. you have in our missed dependence on the oil refineries. these things are all extraordinarily vulnerable to missile attack, as the iranians have just shown. it is crippled very quickly in the war. and they have a small population. they cannot have a large military. they can hire a certain number of mercenaries to help them, but they do not have the population base to have a strong military. in several cases, they have gotten
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used to farmers doing this. the saudi's have military experience including the first gulf war and in none of them have they shown any particularly military skill with one exception. we are talking about less than 2 million people. these are fundamentally weak states. they can get more powerful, to some extent, for their own protection, not to the extent that we can use that as a change in our relationship. >> i would say that there are two critical developments over the last 10 years that have driven these decisions, particularly by saudi arabia and the uae, to build their own internal security capabilities. one was the perception, rightly or wrongly, that u.s. commitment,
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u.s. interest, u.s. willingness to carry through on our long-standing defense and security umbrella goal is fading. you can go back to the obama administration, even back to the george w. bush administration and see a declining level of interest and commitment to the gulf states that has played out. one issue is the collapse of the traditional sunni arab leadership, particularly the internal forces that egypt has had since 2010-2011, the collapse of syria, of iraq as leaders of the sunni arab world and therefore, you have seen two things. one, the rise of
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the gulf states interview that they are now responsible for leadership in the sunni world, and that is compounded by the younger leadership, the more ambitious, aggressive leadership. we have mohammad bin salman and as a result of these two things, we have seen two developments. one is that they are no longer relying on the united states. you see that both in their turn toward a more positive, focused relation with russia and china, but you also see it in turns in terms
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of their decision that they are going to take on greater responsibility for their own security, their own protection, than they did before. they are not going to wait for the seventh cavalry to come over the horizon anymore. they are going to take that on themselves. we can talk about whether they are good at it or not. it doesn't matter. the reality is, they're going to pursue it and that has strong locations in terms of our own role and responsibilities in the region going forward. >> i can add one quick point to this. the number of times i have heard semi-informed american commentators say that we are now in oil exporting country reinforces this perception that when the balloon goes up, we are not going to come for it. >> it is absolute nonsense. >> what about putting this into larger context before we get to the questions? what relevance does the gulf region have in the broader geopolitical competition between the u.s. and china and between the u.s. and china? between the u.s. and russia and between the u.s. and
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china? >> i will take a swing at china, because i don't thick it has to be part of the competition. i forget the numbers, 60% of their energy comes from the gulf. if there is one country for whom a major war in the gulf would be catastrophic, it would be china. i am speechless at the chinese refusal to get involved. chinese are simply their hope local history basically don't want to get involved. they have bent to our sanctions, our blockade. they are the country that has the most to lose and they are not doing anything. i honestly do not believe that the chinese see themselves moving into the gulf. >> vladimir putin is the
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guy who has played a weak hand very well. russia does not have the economic or military or diplomatic capacity to really challenge the united states in the region, but he is a master at identifying vacuums and figuring out how russia can move in. he is him but he who has a vision of russia as a great power. russia, bite didn't russia, by dint of its status should have a seat at the table when these issues are debated in the middle east. he is going to do that, but at the end of the day, he is not our competition. the competition the u.s. has in terms of great powers is china. china is eating our lunch economically. they are becoming increasingly the number one economic partner for the gulf states. that is
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region while they focus on building their economic relations and prospering through their relationships with the gulf states. i think that is also changing. i don't think it is an accident that the only to enable facilities that china has outside of mainland china are in pakistan, which cords the which guards the strait of hormuz, and djibouti in africa. they understand their security and economic survival depends on access to the waterways. >> can i say, their own no chinese military forces, >> they are in
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djibouti. they certainly have the capability of using military. they are gingerly moving into some of these more aggressive positions. you are absolutely right that what they want to do is they want us to take the headache, than they will take the money. >> i do think what you are seeing is overall, less stable world. i agree with my colleague, the gulf states are less secure in their relationship with us. they are therefore looking elsewhere and particularly the russians. the problem is, they are looking at their own defenses and building them. these are policies they feel they are forced to, because they can't rely on the relationship they had with us.
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if they are not able to supplant that relationship, the russians will sell them arms but will not come to their defense. their capabilities for the equipment remain weak. you have a relationship where we are not quite backing away we have a lot of troops there still but they are not sure of us and it is not clear what we are actually prepared to do when they are making better relationships with countries with which we are uneasy, but which in the end won't solve their dilemma, and building up their arsenal, but without the real capacity to deter the people they are most worried about. when you add that altogether, what you have is a less secure region and a more dangerous one. when you had the solid u.s. relationship, everybody knew what was what and therefore you did not mess with it. now, you have one very
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shaky and uncertain and that has ruled for mistakes. >> we will now turn to questions. >> thanks so much for being here. my name is chad, i am a first-year mpp student interested in international policy. how do you see the increased wave of protests impacting the future of the iranian regime? >> these are the current ones? the gasoline subsidy? >> you want to predict the future. this is really tough. they are posing threats. the regime is incredibly aware of the dangers of these riots. you are seeing the fact that there
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are social cracks after these years since the iranian resolution. i personally doubt that this period of riot will lead to much change. the older leaders of the revolution really learned from the revolution itself was how they gain strength and you period revolution where the shaw had put down these revolts before and in the period of revolution, he vacillated. he used force and then you have bigger demonstrations and he moved back and forth. as he vacillated, the demonstrations got bigger and bigger. if there is any lesson that the older revolutionary leaders have carried away, it is not to make the mistake of the shah. i
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believe they will put these riots down, and they have a lot of force, but they don't have leadership. the revolution had the leadership and the leaders could come forth and take hold. i think you have something here that is of the least very interesting and shows you how much satisfaction there is whether after this you get something else. i don't believe these riots themselves are going to lead to a lot of change. >> i would agree completely with that. the absence of a coherent or popular iranian revolutionary presence abroad right now, the united states has chosen to support perhaps the single most hated iranian exile organization. people like giuliani and former general jones go off and give speeches
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for money. >> i think i saw something today which said that they have already killed about 100 demonstrators in iran and i agree that they are going to do whatever they need to do in order to stop these demonstrations. they have been very clear. what you need to remember is that the shah has taught by the iranians. it really is that they went into syria and held the shah to use the extreme measures he has used in order to stop the syrian uprising. >> iran and iraq have much more potential for political change, but that was not the question. (laughs) >> thank you for being here. i
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am a junior in the undergraduate program focusing on diplomacy and international security. the next question we have for you is, how do u.s. relations in the gulf interact with relations with israel, in particular, for example with u.s. involvement in saudi arabia in yemen impact israel? >> there was a theory in the trump administration that, because the israelis and the gulf share the same concerns about iran, that there was therefore an opportunity to actually push forward this idea of what is called outside in, that in other words, if you get the gulf states to take steps to normalize the relationship with israel, and to open diplomatic relations, regardless of where the
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israelis were in negotiations with the palestinians. i think that what we have seen over these past couple years is that expectation, that idea, was badly exaggerated. while the two sides quietly, under the table, israel and the arabs are working closer together, the gulf states are more willing to be open about the nature of some of their relationships, particularly on the security side, than they were in the past. nevertheless, there is a cap on how far they are going to be willing to go in the absence of some movement toward resolution of the palestinian issue, and particularly, what is called the arab initiative, which is full normalization between israel and the arab world in exchange for the two
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state solution. this is the position, it is still the position, and the reality is unless there is something that addresses palestinian requirements, you are not going to see the gulf states go beyond that. >> if i could add one point, i have seen this movie before over the course of my career. i can think of three instances when american policy, beginning with the alliance that read to the overthrow of the monarchy in iraq. the gulf states allied against the soviet union and a couple more times, when alexander haig was building trying to build an alliance against i even forget if it was the soviet union or iran at that point. again with the gulf
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states. we have done this several times. >> if we have no memory, it is always a fresh idea. (laughs) >> next question. >> what are the most effective strategies for combating iranian backed groups in the middle east, such as hamas and the forces in iraq? >> since we haven't seen one yet, it is hard to know what the strategy will be. can i just say simply in one sentence, doing our best to fix the problem so you dry up the swamp in which they dwell. in other words, if you try to deal with them directly, they know their
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turf, they know how to survive in that turf. progress on the palestinian issue, i don't even know how to deal with iraq. i couldn't begin to suggest. >> iraq is an interesting case, because iranians have gotten a lot of power in iraq. iranians are not well liked in iraq. americans often make the mistake of thinking that somehow they are close to the iranians. they forget that eight years of the iran, iraq war with thousands killed. the foot shoulders the foot soldiers were mostly she. they never went against their own government. when i served in iran, it was not good for in a rocky politician to be seen as too close to the iranians. now, there is a lot of pushback and the iranians do best in iraq when the country is unstable, because then they can work the different power centers for their own interests. they
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always had the risk with a stable iraq being a threat to iran again, as it was all the way back to the eighth century. it is not a new thing. right now, they have a hard time. one could say that things one should not do our much clearer than exactly how to affect it. iraqis are tired of foreigners messing about in their lives and their wars. so, right now when you have got backlash against iranian pressure, it is a good time for us to shut up and sit down and not be very heavily involved. you can consult quietly with people, but you have got a very volatile politics, things going in a direction you kind of
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like. we have a desire usually to do something. this is one of those places where we are much better off right now you may see an opportunity to do something useful, but don't assume you have to. >> one quick point. just to set rest is question of iranian she control shia control. in logical terms, at best, >> that requires a certain historical perspective. i hope you all understood that. >> if i can just add, the huthi experience in yemen, i think it sharpens
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the point that ron and pat were making and that is that each of these instances where the iranians have been able to establish relations, to build alliances, relationships, is really unique to that particular set of circumstances. in the case of yemen, where you have the huthis, you also have a relationship with iran, yet they have exploited that relationship and the iranians have exploited the relationship with the huthis in order to
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achieve an objective that they had, which is to put pressure on saudi arabia. nevertheless, the issues that are unique to the conflict that is going on in yemen right now are issues that are internal to yemen. the huthis are not fighting because they are partners of iran. they are fighting because of their circumstances in yemen. the best thing we can do, to the extent that we can do it, is to help resolve those internal
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issues. if you deny the iranians the vacuum that they have been very successful at exploiting, then you can deny them the air they need to develop these relationships and that is true with hamas, it is true in iraq, it is true with has bilal in lebanon, and it is true with the who these in with hezboll in lebanon, a and it is true with theh huthis. >> you have to actually know something and pay attention to the differences and you can't do this on the basis of two-dimensional policy and soundbites about >> we will go to the next question. >> can the arab coalition of states be trusted to combat terrorism? >> maybe sometimes no. >> mostly no. >> it depends. the saudi's were good partners for us and fighting against al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. we had a lot of success. there was one particular instance you may not remember called the printer cartridge bomb attacks in 2010.
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it was right when i got to sana. there was an attempt to smuggle explosives on board an airplane in printer cartridges. we would not have known about that had it not been for saudi intelligence. and also the british. there have been instances where in fact there were extremely important partners for us. she there are other areas where we work closely together. you have the larger issue of where saudi policy has exacerbated terrorist. livia being a good example librya being a good example. >> how does turkey fit
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into the equation? >> badly. >> turkey has a lot of its own agenda. it is feeling its oats. turkey has helped in certain areas. it has helped combat extreme movements. in parts of syria, you have turkey being quite tolerant of movements that are aligned to the islam estate. the turks are worried about other things. they're far more worried about kurdish terrorism than the islamic state. if helping works, they will help. if helping us is against a stronger interest,
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they will not be so helpful. this is like turkish policy 2.0. they had the same view right after the breakup of the soviet union. the lift was way heavier than they had the capacity. now they are kind of trying some of that again. they will find that their ambitions, their reach, exceeds their grasp. there is an internal dynamic. president erdogan really did make a difference for turkey. somewhere along the line, he has had problems. the problems reflect themselves in election results. like most leaders who want to stay in power. >> during your comments
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toward the beginning of the session, you commented on the potential of some sort of movement in iranian-u.s. relations. what does the recent rise in tensions between israel and iran, marked by the israeli air force strikes against targets in syria a couple of days ago, suggest about iranian ambitions in syria? what are the risks of this turning into a larger conflict? >> this is
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one of those places where i don't believe the two countries really have an overview of the other one as a threat. i think a large part of this is iran tried to maintain its control of influence in syria. in large part this is israeli domestic politics. it is really useful to have the iranians as the bogeyman. i don't think at either country wants to have a war with the other. there is no doubts that the iranians were far more invested in the regime in damascus. access to lebanon and to hezbollah through syria is incredibly important. the iranians see the ability to
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expand their military with has below in syria as well as lebanon. they see it as useful in terms of threatening israel. the israeli's have responded. an interesting thing is that the israeli's have responded very aggressively. they have gone after an iranian arms depot. they have killed a number of iranians in syria. they have killed a number of iranians and iraq. the response from tehran has been zero. the two sides have decided that this is a game they're going to play. >> how does the current
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state of u.s.-iran relations affect u.s. diplomatic efforts in afghanistan? >> what is happening in afghanistan, the iranians, it is useful to remember, were quite supportive of our intervention in afghanistan. there is a big difference between how the iranians look at iraq and afghanistan. they used to have
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a military exercise when they exercised on the iraqi invasion of iran. afghanistan is not a strategic threat. i had probably the last meeting in afghanistan. i argued that that was a bad decision. i lost. they remained fairly supportive. everyone was basically supportive. it became a little bit more belligerent during the time of arc minutes ahmenijad in iran. they are concerned about the growth of the islamic state and afghanistan. and the perception
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that we are not going to hold up our continued involvement in afghanistan. that is what they are doing. you have a definite warming of relations between the iranians and the taliban, as you have with the russians and the taliban. it is premised on the perception that the islamic state is a bigger threat and you cannot trust the americans to hold up their end on afghanistan. they will walk out and leave chaos. >> turning to humanitarian issues, how concerned should we be about the human cost of sanctions on
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iraq iran? how much we should be or how much are we? >> should be. >> if you are looking at it from an ethical point of view, it is a little bit like our sanctions on iraq in the lead up to the 2003 war in which we took a position that the humanitarian car races we created in iraq was about
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saddam hussein. we try to sell that domestically. if we try to sell the same story and iran, i don't think it will be sold. there has always been a bit of a humanitarian crisis. with a few exceptions, i think the iranian government will do a good job of convincing the iranian people that it is the americans fault. >> that is a really important point. the official u.s. position is we are not interested in punishing the iranian people. we want to put pressure on the regime. the weight of u.s. sanctions is falling on the common people. my wife is in the tourism business. we got married a few years ago. she used to lead tours to iran. i told her to. she said the americans on her
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tours were always amazed about the warmth of the reception they got. the fact that the common iranian people like americans. they felt as though if it were not for the political differences, they would be able to have a good relationship with us. we are not the reason your life is so difficult. when the day comes, and it will come, we would like to normalize our relations with iran. we would like to get back to business with iran. there will be popular resistance within iran to doing that. it will make it much harder to achieve our objectives. >>
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sanctions are in effective tool if you outline clearly the behavior you want to change. in the current long list of sanctions on iran, there is no desired behavior enunciated. we do not have a clear policy of what we want them to do. if you outline what you want to have. we are able to allow exceptions and allow certain things to go through. the intent is really for the behavior of the state to change. the trump administration, as i just said,
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is not known to know exactly what it wants to achieve. the pressure is played up politically. the longer they run, the more they hit. >> i would make the same point. the deepest line of clarity, and this is true of many situations, is about change in behavior. or regime overthrow. there is no reason to make the concessions necessary. you are just weakening yourself. it only
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makes sense if you wanted to have that agreement. the way we talk about this leaves you very uncertain of what the policy will be tomorrow. >> it is very targeted on russia. stop hitting us. we will sanction and we will use more offensive ways. >> any other questions? >> last question. >> it is
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between this and cocktail time. >> how can students interested in middle east diplomacy best succeed? >> i will take the first one. succeed at what you are doing right now. do well in school. get to know as much as you can about the middle east. there is no magic formula. a well educated person who has educated himself on the region, who has a real interest, not just academic, but you need to develop a visceral interest in the area like all three of us have. that is the best way. >> did you choose it or stumble into it? >> this when i chose. >> i had 3.5 months in graduate school after joining the military. that was really where i began to develop a strong interest in the muslim world. we could all pontificate for hours. you will never be fully
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expert. you have to recognize what a colleague told me. she said you will never understand this country as clearly as on the day you arrive. you think you have a perception. you get into the details. you learn more and more. it gets harder and harder. recognize that this is a lifetime business. what you come out of here is with a basis on which to go forth and learn. prepare yourself with the history. these are countries that have an enormous sense of history. this is often an impediment to them. you need to understand the history. you
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go and you learn to listen. my late boss was very involved with arab-israeli negotiations. he said we have to understand the psychological motivations behind these. he said listen deeply enough to be changed by what you hear. it is in a normally important point. if you want to get other people to do things your way and like it, you have to know what their way is. you have to spend a lot of time listening. >> i very early
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on had to make a choice between studying russian and studying arabic. i realized if i was going to spend the next 20 years of my life and that part of the world, i like lamb more than i like cabbage. >> while on that note, i want to thank you gentlemen. make it to the audience. >> one more round of thanks for this panel. ' (applause)
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>> one more round of thanks for this panel. ' (applause)


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